$0.47 worth of karma

as i was leaving the irish pub i regularly attend for its weekly trivia night, i was accosted by what i can only assume was a homeless man.

the pub is in a relatively ‘good’ part of town, and is surrounded on two sides by establishments that one would normally dress up to attend, and also be sure he had enough in his checking account to cover it beforehand. the pub itself is the most authentic americanized irish pub i’ve ever been in – considering they went so far as to dismantle several real pubs in ireland and transport their pieces here for my dining and drinking pleasure (according to their menu, anyway). supposedly the irish pub is a rising trend in my area. what this means for actual, authentic pubs on the emerald isle, i have no idea, but i’ll venture that the number of drunken frat boys who frequent such establishments on this side of the atlantic will keep any number of such transplants in business for the forseeable future.

i, for one, won’t. i don’t drink anymore (something i’m trying out temporarily, knowing how much i enjoy a glass of red wine. i’ll let you know how it goes) and when i go there, i order coke, which, if you bother a bartender, and not your waiter for it, they’ll typically give you free – refills, too. that and about a $3 appetizer, which is usually shared with my table, tide me over for the whole of trivia night. i know, i’m a cheap bastard.

so, as i was leaving, walking down the well-lit street where the patrons of the aforementioned expensive establishments park, on my way to the not-so-well-lit street where I was parked, i noticed someone walking behind me. as i got into my vehicle, he came out into the light and revealed himself to be a 5’3” black man in his mid twenties with short dreadlocks, an effeminate manner, and a very soft speaking voice.

his hands were shaking uncontrollably as he tapped on my car window – a definite invasion of my personal space, but i let it slide. i am also trying to be more kind and generous to my fellow man these days. again, i’ll let you know how it turns out. i rolled down the window and turned off the radio to hear what he was saying.

homeless, vagrants, beggars, or whatever you prefer, they all have a gimmick. i have yet to meet an honest man who asked me to my face that he needed my money to buy himself another bottle of beer. i met a man once who asked me repeatedly to give him $1.79 so he could get his pregnant wife (waiting around the corner where i couldn’t see her) a quarter pounder with cheese at the nearby mcdonalds. “honest, mister, if you give me two dollars, i’ll bring you back the change.” or “a quarter to make a phone call.” i was even hit up by a little boy, no more than 12, at a loal arcade (i was playing the new gauntlet game). “give me a quarter and i’ll pay you back.”

apparently my needy one was in such a state because, despite moving here from a town 200 miles away last week, and having worked at daryl’s (a local restaurant) he was out of doors and had had his wallet was stolen which contained all his money and identification, and could i help him out so he could get something to eat.

i could have asked why he didn’t go to his place of so-called employment, only a few blocks away, to hit up the wait staff for a bite. and why he couldn’t have asked to work that night to get some extra tips. or why he had picked me, the cheap bastard, instead of some of the more well-to-do patrons across the street?

regardless of this, i sighed inwardly and decided to help out my fellow man enough to get him to go away. it’s a fact of life, or at least mine, that beggars, once they close for the kill, won’t go away until satisfied that they have inconvenienced me to the point where i will give them the change in my pocket or threatened with bodliy harm. so i rolled down the window a little further and handed him the change that was sitting in the arm rest – not a lot. a few pennies, nickels and dimes – no quarters, those all being used on parking meters this last week. less than a handful, probably less than 50 cents.

i asked if he smoked (which i don’t), and if he could use a lighter someone who did had left in my car. i gave him that, too.

then he reached into the window and asked to shake my hand.

while i was not physically threatened by the diminutive man, i shunned his gesture of gratitude, pulling my hand away from his until he withdrew. i’m not sure why, and i’m not very proud of it. paranoia, i suppose, led me to think he migh try to grab my hand and force me to open the door or some other such futile act – considering i could have pulled his arm from its socket if i had the inclination. why hadn’t he tried that when i had my fist out the window with the change? or maybe i thought he was dirty, would pass on to me some horrible homeless disease.

regardless, i gave him my change and helped him out somehow, at least he got something for his trouble. he’s a little farther along toward another bottle of beer, pack of cigarettes, or maybe a meal. i, on the other hand, traded what little karma i received from the exchange for a troubling knowledge of just how paranoid and distant i am from my fellow man. quite an education for a small handful of change.

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