Tag Archives: 2012

Smile

On the corner of Valencia and Alvernon, on a 72 degree Tucson, Arizona winter’s day, stood a familiar sight; the scruffy looking man holding a cardboard sign. The poor soul wasn’t standing on the corner, exactly; he was pacing the median to my left as I was approaching the stoplight, waiting to make a turn in that direction.

A month previous, my daughter and I were exiting a shopping center and drove by a forlorn-looking gentleman clutching that infamous cardboard. As we passed, I made no eye contact, and I realized my daughter has learned to do the same. It occurred to me that she’s never seen me be charitable to a homeless person on the street. She missed those days. The days when I was younger and less cynical. The days when I lived in a city and I spared my change. That fact, combined with it being Christmas time, was enough to get me to drive a circle – through two traffic lights, and holiday shopping parking lots – just to give the four dollars cash I had on hand to the middle-aged man with the sign.

I’m aware of the idea/myth/possible reality that many homeless persons with “Will work for food.”, “Children starving, please help.”, “Hungry veteran. This is humiliating.” signs are just duplicitously playing on your sympathies and, in fact, make more in a day on the freeway exit ramp than you do all week. But I’ve never been quite sure how much of that is true or how much of that is something we tell ourselves so we don’t have to feel bad – or, worse, make eye contact.

So, as I sat in the left turn lane, at the corner of Valencia and Alvernon, with my two children in the backseat, the man with sign approached my window and I stared stoically ahead at a light that could not turn green fast enough. He was the most aggressive panhandler I’d ever known. The minute we stopped he rushed my window, practically pasting his sign on my driver’s side glass. So aggressive that I was compelled to turn my head and read it.

It said, “Smile.”

With a little smiley face beneath the single word. And I did. I smiled. More accurately, I smirked – in the caught-off-guard, “Ah, you got me good” way. And I made my left turn with all sorts of philosophical thoughts about the wackiness of the world. But I think I smiled most at the thought, “Hipster or homeless?”

Bananas

While ringing up my multitude of groceries, my checker looked stressed over the 75 year old bagger who was taking his arthritic time packing up my goods. I decided to make light of my weighty purchase with small talk, and I said, “And to think, all this will be gone in two weeks.”

My checker, whose face remained stern, replied, “Yeah. Kids. I think our lives are going to come to a drastic halt if things keeps going the way they’re going.”

Um……what?

She was in her mid 50s, long 70s hair, pretty, with kind yet sad eyes, and wearing a crystal around her neck – all of which only made her statement more confusing. Was she prophesying some 2012 shit? Was she commenting on American consumerism in general? Was she baked? Was she NOT baked and therefore woke up on the doomy-gloomy side of the bed that day?

“I think our lives are going to come to a drastic halt if things keeps going the way they’re going.”
Are we still talking about my groceries? And if not, shouldn’t we? Because WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT?!

What do you say? Me, I said nothing. I tried constructing some polite, chit-chatty responses in my head, but couldn’t get past, “What do you mean?” or “Um…..I suppose?” or “Thank you for being the umpteenth crazy person to walk into my life and fuel a blog story. God Bless, and may the aliens rescue you soon.”

Of course, she may have a point – assuming she was speaking towards the state of world affairs. But is dropping some Nostradamus on me while I’m buying eight tons of paper towels and genetically engineered bananas really the best time?

Maybe.