Let me rewind the reel-o-life by about ten minutes. Editing a podcast, I had run out of alcoholic provisions so I ran to the local 7/11 to acquire libations. On the way, a middle-aged homeless guy stops me and asks: “Do you have any money for food? I am starving.”
I politely told him that I did not and don’t carry cash. (Typically, on 7/11 runs I’ll bring my ID and my android phone, which thanks to Google Wallet allows me to pay without a credit or debit card.) He looked at me, rolled his eyes and kept walking back towards the Huntington metro.
I felt bad that the guy didn’t believe me.
The homeless outside the Huntington metro and the local 7/11 are a well-known cadre, and while I’d seen this guy before, I hadn’t interacted with him. This wasn’t a good first introduction.
At 7/11, in addition to the beer, I also ordered a hot dog in the hopes that, if I saw him again, I’d give it to him. If not, since they’re delicious, I would eat it. As I neared the metro and my home, I looked up towards the station and saw the man rummaging through the garbage can.
I walked towards him. He had what looked like an uneaten side of chicken in a paper tray. I asked him if he was the same guy I spoke with a few minutes ago, just to test to see if he remembered me. He said yes.
I told him that, while I don’t normally carry cash, I remembered him and bought a hot dog in the hopes that I’d run into him on my way back. He opened the 7/11 container and asked “Did you put some mustard on that?” I was astonished, and slightly outraged. While I myself am picky, if I was “starving” I wouldn’t be anywhere as picky. I’d have given him slightly more credit if I put the works on it and he said he didn’t eat ketchup, or something. I can understand the lingering flavors of unwanted condiments, but if you’re “starving” that seems like a small cross to bear. But no condiments? Give me a break.
He tried giving me the hot dog back to me. I refused. I asked if he was a beer drinker, and he was. I gave him a beer for the road. He told me that when he got home, he’d “put some mustard on it [the hot dog].”
I guess “starving” is a relative term. Reminds me of when I was stopped in 2007 by a homeless guy outside of Union Station, asking for money for food. I had just come, as an underpaid Staff Assistant, with burgers and snack wraps from McDonald’s. I offered him his choice. “Naw, man, I don’t eat meat” was his response.
Every few years, you run into a homeless person who really instills distrust of the misfortunate. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to help, or offer a dude a beer now and again, but it should keep you on your toes that there are a lot of people who give those who have legitimately fallen on hard times a really bad rap and that some people need help from specialists, not handouts.