Today, as I was searching online to pay my water bill, I found this website on panhandling, which reminded me of some of my favorite experiences the last few years with Atlanta panhandlers. Below are three instances from when I was in school and spent a good bit of time downtown, going to courtrooms to learn from litigators or going to the library to do research.
1) I was walking away from the downtown law library at about 10pm on a Wednesday when I saw a man who appeared to be homeless; he was approaching me on the sidewalk. As the distance between us closed to about 10 feet, he opened his mouth, but before he could speak, I blurted out a quick, “Hey buddy, can you spare a couple bucks?”
His face turned from pathetic to angry. “Yo, fuck you, man!”
He pulled his arm back to punch me in the face; I moved back a bit; his fist landed on my shoulder. I dropped my backpack and rared back to return the favor just as a siren sounded from a block up the road, and two cops jumped out to apprehend Angry Homeless Dude. I was vindicated.
2) On a Saturday afternoon, I was walking from the law library to Underground Atlanta to try and find some lunch. A panhandler walked up to me and started talking about what a nice day it was. I agreed with him. Then he told me about his broken down car and how he needed about $5 worth of gas to get some repairs. I told him I didn’t have any cash. He reached into his coat and asked, “What if I pull this knife out? Then would you have some cash?”
Me: “Nope. I still got nothing.”
He looked around us; no one was visible. I thought I’d surely take a blade to the gut, but he appeared to believe me and walked away.
3) One Sunday evening after spending all day in the library working on a paper, I left to get some McDonald’s by Grady Hospital. As I stood in line, exhausted and starving, I decided I’d spend part of the $5 I had in my pocket to get a couple cheeseburgers and a water.
A skinny man with white paint all over him walked up to me in line and told me he hadn’t eaten in two days and asked if I could get him some food. I felt a little sorry for him and said, “Sure. I’ll get you a hamburger and water.”
Then I noticed he smelled like an ashtray.
Me: “So, you don’t have enough money to buy food, but you can buy cigarettes?”
Painter: “Um, well, I bummed a few from my buddies, if that’s what you mean…”
We stood in line some more, and then another skinny paint-covered fellow walked up and asked what my linemate was doing.
Painter: “Well, my friend here is going to buy me some dinner. Hey man, I’ll take a Number 3 with a large Coke, okay?”
Me: “NO, IT’S NOT OKAY! I’VE BEEN AT THE LAW LIBRARY FOR FUCKING 8 HOURS AND AM FINALLY GOING TO USE TWO DOLLARS TO GET A MEAL. I AM NOT SPENDING TWICE THAT ON YOUR SORRY ASS. YOU GOT THAT?
Painter: (steps away slowly)
The restaurant was full of patrons, and all of them stopped chatting or ordering to look at the asshole who was yelling at the pitiful painter. At that point, I gave nary a damn. I walked up to the register and ordered my cheeseburgers and water–to go–and got the hell out. Painter went hungry.
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