Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Few Open Letters to the Beggars of Chicago, Or "Sweet Jebus Am I Turning Conservative!?"

Dear Beggars of Chicago,

Now that the Summer heat is upon us and the tourists are flooding to our fair city like bees to honey, it is only natural that you will all be stepping up your game.  There is a lot of money passing through the Second City economy this season and I can see why you are hitting the streets full force to get your piece of the pie.  However, I have recently felt inundated with your requests for a spare quarter or bus fare.  For one week, I kept track of the number of requests for money, as well as the numerical amount requested.  When I did the math, I realized that 37 individuals asked me for a cumulative $43.75 (With "spare some change equaling $.50) over a seven day period. I am no accountant (that's what Big Brother & Old Man are for,) but I did recognize that I would quickly go broke on the meager wages I live on if I met every one's request. With that said, I would like to make a basic request of you during these Dog Days' of Summer:
1. Recognize the difference between a Chicagoan and a tourist. When I step onto the train at 11:30 at night, sweatier than Rocky and smelling of the San Diego Zoo Ape House, put the effort into realizing I am not here to visit Shedd Aquarium but rather just got out of a busy dinner service working hard for my wages.  Hit up the family of four wearing matching Old Navy t-shirts, not your fellow Chicagoan.
2. Tying into Request #1, stick to the Loop.  Do you really think someone living off of an Uptown Red Line stop has excess cash to spare? No, they don't. And if they do, then ask them why the Hell they are living in Uptown, damnit.
3. See Requests 1 & 2.

I appreciate your consideration in this matter. It's not that I am heartless or not empathetic to your plight, but rather that I would go broke financing you and would prefer to donate my meager excess to charities or solid organization such as Streetwise (Big Shout out to Jason at Broadway and Sunnyside!)

Thank you for your consideration in this matter. I have a few more letters to follow to multiple individuals who seem to have little respect for the "work" you do panhandling, along with some friendly advice.

Your Friend,


Dear Leroy Jenkins,

About a year ago, you boarded a car on my Red Line train telling a story of how you were a former convicted felon, gave the typical Amazing Grace spiel and said you were trying to find a job. You begged for job leads, business cards, anything to help turn your life around. You held up your picture and paperwork you have to show your parole office. I wept, regretting I had no job lead for you.

Three months later, you boarded a car and gave the same spiel. You also asked for money as it was expensive to get to job interviews and you needed help with your CTA fare.  I had recently switched from a typical ticket to the CTA monthly unlimited, leaving me with a fare card with $5 on it. I was touched by your story of trying to turn your life around and offered you my CTA card. You declined it. I snarled.

Two weeks ago, you boarded a car and gave the same spiel.  It's been a year and you've collected more business cards than the fishbowl at Applebee's offering free lunch. Please file a W-4 on the livable income you are clearly earning and please considering switching to a different train line, because now that I can hear your memorized and no-longer-heartfelt  spiel over the sounds of Hall & Oates on my iPod, I am starting to get pissed.

Your Friend,

P.S. I am willing to bet that Leroy Jenkins is not even your real name.


Dear Woman Outside of My Neighborhood Bodega,

A few tips:
1. Don't shove your cup into my face saying, "Hey Lady."
2. It is probably wise to keep your iPhone tucked away when panhandling for sympathy change. When your phone is nicer than mine, we should reevaluate who should be giving change to who.

Your Friend,


Dear Sir on the Red Line,

I boarded late at night, looking and smelling like the above mentioned state.  You immediately ran over to me said, "Hey Lady, can you spare fiddy cents? I need to catch the train."
Me: "You're already on the train."
You: "I mean I need to catch a cab, spare me a dolla."
Me: "It costs $3.25 to get into a cab here, sorry."
You: "So you ain't gonna give me any money?"
Me: "No."
You: "Stingy Bitch."

I feel as if the point of this letter writes itself. But to clarify:
1. Know why you are asking for money.
2. Name calling will win you no friends.

Your Friend,


Dear Sir With the Amazing Sign,

You were sitting at Jackson and State. You had a sign that started with, "Me Hungry," then had a sketch of Pac-man chasing dots followed by, "Nom Nom Nom."  I was proud to reward you clever wittiness with a couple of bucks and I applaud you for not going with the now-standard, "Why Lie? I need a beer," that is so overplayed at this point.

Your Friend,

P.S.  Chicago Panhandlers, take note of this guy. Get a clever line or gimmick. These are hard times for all of us, a good laugh is worth a few of our hard-earned wages.

Meanwhile, don't ever shove your cup in my face ever again. Because while these words will never hurt you, there's a good chance that my knife and pepper spray will.

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