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Friday, 11 February
Street Hassle

I had a jolly time walking home from work the other day. So many new friends to meet!

First up was the fellow who, at the freeway onramp off of Olive Way, simply sat down in the middle of the street. He wore jeans, a ratty jacket, and carried in his arms an ancient radio that, as far as I could tell, was playing nothing, but this did not prevent the man from feeling rhythm (I would not be surprised if the apparatus was capable of playing old 78s. In fact, that would be cool. "Let's rock out to 'Sixty Minute Man' "!). As he sat on the asphalt (in front of cars, who honked forlornly), he held his arms out horizontally and did kind of a hippie wave with them, bobbing his head ecstatically. He was like the quietest, loneliest Phish concert ever. The cars continued to beep at him peevishly, and after a moment, he incorporated their noise as synocpation; he bopped to his feet and boogied over to the nearest car's driver-side window and gave the occupants a happy double bang-bang set of gestures with his hands . . . you know, like, "Hey, you are rad! I would enjoy having a key party with you and your wife!" Or something. Unmoved by this display of appreciation, the driver frantically scrambled to lock his door. The man held out his decrepit radio to the window in an attempt to share the Music of the Spheres with the car's occupants, but still the radio remained silent. The car veered around him onto the onramp, roughly at the same time I was veering around him, praying he wouldn't notice me. But he did: as I passed, he flashed me a gigantic grin and gave me the finger. I was actually pleased with this encounter, as it did not involve me talking to anyone.

I was not so lucky once I reached Broadway, where I was innocently making my way to the liquor store. I waited on the corner to cross the street, willing the light to change, when I was approached.

"Hi, sir! How are you doing?" This from a chirpy little dronelet wearing some yellow polyester jacket with an unfamiliar logo on it. I glanced down the street and noticed other yellow jackets. The bastards had blanketed the QFC block (a supermarket; basically the Kroger's of the Pacific Northwest), and were hassling the street's busiest area.

"I'm fine," I said stonily. Thanks to my accursed parents, I am pretty much trained to be at least minimally polite. Otherwise, I would have said, "I was great until some broad I've never met decided to bother me on the street." Or, "See that liquor store over there? I wouldn't need to go there if people like you were dead." But I didn't.

"Have you ever heard of PLAN?" she asked.

"No."

"Well, we're some sort of lousy organization that allegedly helps starving kids in hellholes everywhere, presumably by holding them hostage to Jesus-lectures before we give them donated food." I might be paraphrasing.

"I see."

"Maybe you've seen the movie About Schmidt?"

"I saw it on a plane." (Here my mind took time out to become exasperated with itself. Who fucking cares? Why are you talking to this person? How is this information relevant? Why haven't we bought liquor yet?)

This was obviously a BINGO! response that, like a dummy, I had provided. "Ah! Then you probably remember--"

My temper slipped a notch as I noticed that I had allowed a crossing-light cycle to pass by. "I don't have any money for you today," I interrupted.

"We don't accept cash donations," she smoothly replied, which certainly ruined my idea of winging a roll of quarters at her forehead. "What we do is take your name and address . . . "

Yeah, that was enough. I showed her all my molars. "No thank you. No." My mind was still wondering why I was simply unable to tell her to leave me the hell alone in the first place. She gave me a sad grin that clearly said, "You are a terrible person." Well, I knew that already, but I'm a happy terrible person. And now I'm not talking to you, so I'm even happier!

After the happy visit to the liquor store--which is kind of funny, since is there a liquor store that is not fundamentally depressing? There's always something, like the guy whose credit card I saw got declined when he tried to buy three minibottles of vodka. "Run it again!" he wailed, and I just wanted to sit down and be miserable for a minute, BUT--I wandered back out onto the not-very-mean streets., only to be confronted by my least favorite "homeless" scam artist.

"Got any spare change for foooooood?" he crooned, as he always does. He's a big blond guy, and his schtick is that he's perfected this man-boy persona that suggests that he's mildly retarded and helpless. He's been pulling this shit on Broadway for ten years, and it drives me crazy, to the extent that I have jettisoned my usual "must-be-nice" reactions for pure brutality: "Fuck no, you parasite." He does not drop his role for a second, and stares at me with a wounded look: but I have seen him about a billion times pulling out wads of bills to buy beer and lottery tickets. Once I walked into a local convenience store to get some smokes, and the bloody bastard was playing a "Mars Attacks" pinball game.

And this concludes my tale of being irritated by the possibly drug-addled, nonprofit volunteers, and the homeless. Hurrah!

Roam | Skot | 11 Feb, 2005 |

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments


Your urban misadventures have all the makings of a revolutionary alternative video game, Skot. Something like ‘Grand Urban Hassle’.

(I love posting comments from Europe – you always get to be the first, Bwaahaahaa!)

Comment number: 005503   Posted by: Lung the Younger on February 11, 2005 01:09 AM from IP: 80.58.34.44

Those fresh-faced kids soliciting monthly recurring contributions to charities are not volunteers. They are employees of various companies that take a huge cut of whatever donations are given. Here in Portland solicitors for "Save the Children" or some such shit are on every corner. The Secretary of State has a disclosure section on their webiste where these operators must disclose their financial arrangements with the charities they works for. In the case of the company shilling for "Save the Children," they guarantee that the charity will get at least one penny out of every dollar collected.

One penny.

Comment number: 005504   Posted by: Matt on February 11, 2005 08:38 AM from IP: 67.154.184.38

Every time you have a post about the homeless crazies on Broadway, Skot, it's like a trip down memory lane. Sure, I remember the tow-headed Faulknerian man-boy. What about the "blind" lady who stood outside QFC, smelling the air like a snake, waiting for some bourgeoise to pass by and jingle some loose change? She still there?

Comment number: 005505   Posted by: Adam on February 11, 2005 10:31 AM from IP: 24.18.180.133

So we've got a new local panhandler, a boy of about 18 or so I'd guess. He stands right outside the McDonald's parking lot exit with a "Hungry, please help" sign.. and his schtick is giving ya the hairy eyeball while you shove french fries in your face.

And he's SO WEARING AN AMERICAN EAGLE OUTFITTERS HOODIE. He just rubbed dirt on it.

Ahh, but that liberal guilt.. bastard's got about ten bucks from me so far.

Comment number: 005506   Posted by: Melissa on February 11, 2005 11:14 AM from IP: 24.28.2.219

I really miss the Crazy Eye Van Ladies. They was my faves.

Loved this sentence: "He was like the quietest, loneliest Phish concert ever." Beautiful.

Comment number: 005507   Posted by: Joe on February 11, 2005 02:41 PM from IP: 67.101.248.113

Bloody Scientologist bastard stopped me once and told me Scientology could give me what I most wanted in life. I said I wanted to be 4 inches taller. He gulped a bit and said they could arrange that as long as I came with him right now to their testing centre round the corner. Where no doubt they test your wallet:sanity ratio and have a rack.

Comment number: 005508   Posted by: Spike on February 11, 2005 03:03 PM from IP: 203.217.27.203

crazy eye van people were not egyptian, but wanted to be. they were scary.

Comment number: 005509   Posted by: beige on February 11, 2005 03:27 PM from IP: 128.95.169.36

have you noticed the growing-every-day 40 party in the parking lot on the south side of the Capitol Hill end of the overpass? Todat at 4 there were about fifteen people, prerparing to hear the invisble music. I've noticed them every day for a week now.

Comment number: 005510   Posted by: mike on February 11, 2005 09:02 PM from IP: 216.173.212.237

PLAN isn't a Jesus-based organization, regardless of what the bimbo said. I sponsor two kids with them, and it's actually a well-thought-out organization that's not hell-bent on making every culture in the world Just Like Ours, actually working WITH the communities their workers are in. Not that you give a shit, but since it's the lone organization I actually trust with my money, I figured I'd at least make an attempt at defending it.
But since I want to punch those irritating (paid) Save the Children drones who prowl my neighborhood, I'm sympathetic all the same. I always just say through clenched teeth, "I'm a sponsor." Then they smile and go away. Keep that in mind. Or hit them with a shoe. Then you won't have to waste those quarters.

Comment number: 005511   Posted by: CG on February 12, 2005 04:58 PM from IP: 70.18.193.161

I actually know this man-boy of which you speak, and it is true that he is uniquely annoying and had driven me to be QUITE rude.

Comment number: 005512   Posted by: Daniel Talsky on February 14, 2005 03:42 PM from IP: 216.231.59.114

There's a "Mars Attacks" pinball game?!??!

The world is actually a better place than I thought it was.

Comment number: 005513   Posted by: tizzie on February 16, 2005 12:49 PM from IP: 208.239.2.131

Lol, reminds me of a trip I took about 10 years ago to Washington D.C., I was outside one of the Smithsonian museums and I saw this man, who otherwise looked like a well kempt business man in his over coat and slacks, asking kids for money as they got off the bus. The real kicker is that he wasn't just asking for spare change, but he was actually asking for $20 from each of them. I did a double take because at first I tried to rationalize that this wasn't some beggar, this was some museum offical collecting the entrance fee from the members of a school field trip. But he clearly had nothing to do with the museum as he walked around asking everyone for $20. It wasn't "can you spare $20" or "I really need $20 to eat" it was "Hey, gimme $20". It was really an education for me as to how brazen and what a sense of entitlment some members of our society have come to expect.

Comment number: 005514   Posted by: Jason on February 17, 2005 11:12 AM from IP: 131.107.62.107

Best I've seen was the guy with the sign that said: "Why lie, I need a beer".

I've taken to carrying the help wanted ads with me and handing them out to the most needy among us.

Comment number: 005515   Posted by: Jim in WA on February 17, 2005 11:42 AM from IP: 170.2.52.140

Gosh I miss the good "Ye Olde Seattle Skid Row" -- where the term originated (the skid road was the route down the hill that the logs were skidded to Yesler's Mill -- now Yesler Way) -- real bums and winos King Street to Pike - and Western to 3rd -- those were the days --when Seattle still still had its soul -- heh heh heh heh instead of these modern day scum bags -- that have been spread out up the 3rd and pine and pike and to Broadway -- shows ya what a lack of affordable housing (flophouses) can do -- I say no more home construction in Seattle until the Pioneer Square flophouse culture has been rebuilt

Comment number: 005516   Posted by: Bill on February 17, 2005 12:34 PM from IP: 67.5.122.154

My favorite is the guy who used to walk around the Fifth & Denny area asking people for a couple dollars to buy gasoline. He'd lay out this sob story about his car ran out of gas a couple miles down the road, and his wife & baby were still sitting inside, waiting for him to come back with a couple gallons of fuel so they can get home. The clown nailed me for three bucks the first time, and then tried to hit me up again the very next day, and a couple days after that. This went on for about four years. Somewhere along the line, he actually started carrying a gas can around with him for effect.

I lost my temper and told him off one day, and he said something like "Have you no compassion?" Nope. But I have a job and a tankful of gas, you stupid mooch.

Comment number: 005517   Posted by: Larry on February 17, 2005 06:16 PM from IP: 67.5.175.131

Hi,
Not sure how I came upon your site, but it's really crazy and humourous at the same time! And yes, I'm a Canuck:) Nice work.

Comment number: 005518   Posted by: Safiyyah on March 1, 2005 11:04 AM from IP: 70.49.157.89

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