Saturday, 18 August 2012

' [not] sorry to bother you’

Okay, here’s the latest assault on civilization dreamed up by the bipeds of the non-profit world, to my deep chagrin as many of the guilty perform worthy tasks. But I have had it with the chirpy youth wearing aerobic smiles who now accost one all over the streets of Manhattan, clipboard in hand, to ask if we can ‘talk’ about the great work of Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, or DoGooders International, Inc.

News flash: this is glorified panhandling. It is also a plague.

Upon taking the subway this afternoon, I was hit up by an obvious drunk with a red face who started off by complimenting my hat and telling me what a cool guy I was. Then he wanted to know if he could ‘ask me a question’, which we all know means, Can you give me a dollar? When I said I was in a hurry, he began to curse me as a rude asshole and threw in a few references to my poor old late mom, to boot.

How exactly is this different from the requests to ‘talk’ from all these aggressive hustlers representing the professional world-saver brigades? Okay, they don’t have anything to say about my ancestors, and supposedly it’s not for their pockets or their bar bills. But then again, they’re not out there for their health. Are they hired by these organizations for ‘summer internships’ and then sent out to drum up cash? Do they get a percentage or minimum wage?

I don’t like begging and hustling in any of its multitudinous forms and respectfully submit that the public byways should be maintained, to the extent possible, free of it. I would and often do gladly contribute generous sums to organizations that provide, or at least seem to provide, real services for people in need. Yes, yes, we do not live in a truly humane polity, and people fall between the cracks. Point taken; therefore, what? We should have strangers’ hands in our pockets every time we go out the door? We should smile graciously at the supermarket and the big-box stores when their drones ask us to put in an extra dollar for their favorite charity?

I recognize that begging is as old as humanity and that people are sometimes in a tight spot. New Yorkers are fairly generous by nature and will help people out when they can. But it can be managed. I work right down the street from one of the city’s largest homeless shelters, and the men there are strictly enjoined not to harass passers by. I think it dignifies them not to feel they must rub the sleep from their eyes and then hit the sidewalks to cadge quarters from people doing better than themselves. No doubt some of them panhandle elsewhere, but for at least a part of their day, they are just guys getting by with the same right to the sidewalk as the rest of us.

Meanwhile, these prosperous nonprofits (the latest one I was hustled by in Chelsea was the gay-rights Human Rights Campaign, which owns an entire huge building in D.C. for its lobbying) can do us all a big favor and at least leave the panhandling to guys wanting a few coins, a cigarette or a bottle of Thunderbird. They don’t need the competition.

No comments: