Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

Someone asks as you’re leaving a coffee shop: “Excuse me, could you spare a little change for a coffee?”

What do you do?

  • Say “No, sorry”, without breaking your stride, even if you have change.
  • Don’t say anything, just shaking your head “No”, even if you have change.
  • Scrutinize them first, seeing how they look; do they appear destitute? Are they worthy, in your eyes, of your change? If you’re male and it’s a nice looking female asking, would it matter? If your female and it’s a male, does it matter? That brings up the questions: why don’t you ever see attractive homeless people? Is that a callous question?
  • Say “No”, and then go back into the coffee shop and tell the manager about the person loitering.
  • Stop and give them change. But how much? Enough for a coffee? All your change, no matter how much you have?

This morning I did the second item.

7 Replies to “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”

  1. I usually say sorry and move on. I used to roll my spare change and give away rolls of nickels and dimes. I collected my change in a bottle for a year once, then gave the bottle away. In Halifax, on Spring Garden Road, where someone will ask you for change every 30 seconds, I used to give away few dollars a week.

    I do notice that when I’m walking down the street with Jenny, 95% of the time the panhandler will ask me for change, not Jenny. Jenny’s remarked on this many times. “Why don’t they ask me for change?”

  2. They aren’t so quick to ask you for change if you have a video camera with you. When I was 17, I got a camera for graduation and I walked around Saint John video taping everything. I walked by the common panhandlers of the city and they told me that they would break the camera if I didn’t turn it off. I quickly turned it off and then hid behind a tree and taped them for a few minutes. My friend provided the commentary. I use to tell people it was a local access TV show called “What’s up Saint John.” People would start talking to me as if they were going to appear on the fictition program.

    Christ if I would have known of all this reality TV and shows like Jackass would be coming along, I don’t think I would have bothered going to school.

    I usually give under a dollar if I have it.

  3. I usually do #1 or 2. I usually do not give to panhandlers. I don’t want to support a bad habit. Also, here in the suburban midwest, panhandlers are few and far between.

    There is panhandler in Kansas City who openly admits to panhandling as a profession. He loiters around the high-priced shopping district and puts the tag on the shoppers and businessmen as the exit the restaurants and stores. He professes to be a very successful bum.

  4. On Spring Garden Rd, there was always someone just outside the exit to Shoppers Drug Mart. By the time I’d go out the front door, I was still putting my change in my pocket. So I’d just give it to the panhandler instead.

    There was a filthy looking guy with no tongue who used to panhandle outside the liquior store. He actually kissed Jenny’s hand one day for some reason.

  5. i ignore them and pretend they weren’t talking to me. same thing i do with the goddamn boy scouts begging for change outside the LIQOUR STORE!

  6. There is, y’know, a 6th option. Offer to go back into the coffee shop with the individual and purchase him a cup of coffee… and maybe even a muffin.

    Now, the pivotal word there is “offer,” because more often than not, you’ll quickly discover that he/she didn’t really want coffee, just a handout. But occasionally you’ll encounter someone who really is thirsty and/or hungry and will accept your generousity. Interestingly, in those rare instances, you may find that the coffee shop employees are reluctant to serve the fellow but usually will do so at your prompting – and with you producing the money for the item(s) ordered.

    Anyway, the point here is that if someone genuinely needs a meal and will accept it in a manner which you are in comfortable with, why not make the guy/gal’s day? That’s just good karma in the bank.

  7. I used to get asked by 2-3 people each way walking up and down barrington street in halifax (1 or so street(s) away from phillip’s spring garden). I always would look them in the eye and say “no, sorry”, practising my lying while looking someone in the eye, regardless of how many “keys” were jingling in my pocket.

    One day while walking by one of the most common people to ask for money I overheard her having a conversation with some other girl.
    nice girl: “here you go, I bought you a bagel with creamcheese”
    begging whore: “thanks, but I don’t eat bagels”
    nice girl stands there stupified for a second, shakes her head and walks away

    If someone’s starving to death, they’ll fucking eat a bagel if they have to. This fat begging whore obviously wasn’t starving to death.

    This is freakin’ canada, where the government gives you a place to live and enough money to buy food, and if that’s not enought here’s a lot of places to get free stuff. Why are these jerks begging? Is it not enough? Get a god damned job. Even retail store workers in this city make at least $8 an hour. Get a roomate and you can even afford to live downtown in a decent 2 bedroom apartment on that salary.

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