Learning to Panhandle – 3 May 2012

Posted: May 5, 2013 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 May 2012

The weather today was overcast and muggy. I talked to Kenny from Iqualuit. “Could you help me out a bit?” he asked.

“Sure I could, Kenny,” I replied and handed him a gift card for a restaurant near by.

“Actually, I was hoping for some change towards buying a bottle.”

“Sorry, Kenny, I don’t carry cash or credit cards.”

The area of ‘the bench’ was deserted. Andre and Matches approached me on the sidewalk. Andre said, “Matches is going to work. I’m going to keep an eye on him.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?” I asked.

“Sure, come on along. We’ll show you how it’s done,” said Andre.

Manoeuvering the sidewalk with Sparky and Emile was an adventure. They were both staggering in different directions. “Drunk man walking!” shouted Andree in his gravelly, carny voice. “Don’t get in the way of my staggering!” followed by “White man on a program!” He spun around a sign post and did a pirouette. “You know you want to give some change to me.” he said, with his cap out and a sad, puppy dog expression on his face. “Could I have a bite of your sandwich?” Someone made a desparaging remark and Andree replied, “If you think you’re life is so good, why is it that I’m so happy?”

He walked between the cars with his cap out asking for change. He came to an empty car at the curb and said, “Hey, a free car! I wonder if they’ll want it back?” At an office building with an outdoor sand ashtray he picked out the longest butts and put them in a plastic ‘baggie’ that he kept especially for that purpose. He was wearing a metal necklace with ball bearing like beads. He pulled the necklace up tight under his chin and said, “Look, I’m a drain plug.”

Tom  had his art display on the sidewalk which included images of deer burned into wood and skateboarders burned into wood then painted. He also had some heart felt poems describing his lost childhood and abuse at the hands of a priest.

Matches took me to ‘his office’, a doorstep near the corner of Bank Street and Laurier. “I’ve been here since 1995. There used to be a tree there.” He pointed to a spot where now stands a ticket dispenser for an underground parking garage.”They had a parking lot, but it was in the open air. I used to clean up the paper and trash. They’d give me five or ten bucks every day. Then they put up this condo.

We sat, Matches’ hat was upturned on the sidewalk.

“Good afternoon, ma’am.

”Good afternoon, sir, have a nice day.

A man stopped and put some change in Matches cap. “It is a nice day isn’t it,” said the man.

“It’s a bit humid, but it’s nice. God bless you sir.”

“And you too,” said the man.

Andre was panning on the other side of the street, so I joined him for a while. “Hi, Andre, I haven’t seen you for a long time. Where have you been?” I noticed that he had a black eye.

“I was in hospital for a while. Also, I’m going out with seven women. They all know about each other.”

I said, “That’s good, to keep it honest.”

“Yeah, I sleep someplace different every night.

“Hi beautiful, I’d settle for just a smile.” he said to a woman walking by. She turned and smiled.

“Thanks, sweetheart!

“Thank you, gentlemen, for defending our country,” he said to two soldiers.

“You’re not ready to throw that cigarette away are you?

“Hey, I didn’t always look like this. I didn’t get to be a bum overnight.” To me he said, “That guy gave me a dirty look.

“Ma’am, that purse is so shiny, I can see my face in it.”

“Yes, it is shiny, isn’t it? You have a nice day,” said the woman, with a pleasant smile.

“Good evening ma’am. You’d look so much more beautiful if you smiled.

“Ma’am you’re just too beautiful. You make me look ugly.

To me he said, “I just love this, watching people. Every face has a different expression. This is like reality TV.”

I said, “A lot of them seem to be hard of hearing.”

“Yeah, it’s like we’re invisible. I’ll put my cap out a little farther.

Someone threw a cigarette butt on the street. Emile jumped up and grabbed the still smoking stub. “It’s about time! Will you look at that woman. Looking that good should be illegal”

“You’re so beautiful, ma’am, you made me look at you.

“Can you spare some change, sir.

“Ma’am that orange bag looks like a pylon. Can I borrow it so nobody steps on me?

“I’m a lawyer, ma’am. I’d be glad to take your case for you.

“I know you’d like to talk to me, but you have your mouth full.

“Sir, it takes a real man to wear pink. Gimme five!” The man slapped Emile’s hand in passing.

“Those are beautiful boots, ma’am.”

So passes the time of a pan handler. It was an educational experience.

  1. jadereyner says:

    Your posts here are a fascinating insight into a very different world. Thank you for sharing your experiences.


    • dcardiff says:

      Thanks, Jade, for your kind words. It is indeed a very different world, different language, different values, different expectations. Seeing these people through the eyes of love, I find we are all the same. We all want happiness and an end to suffering.



  2. wordcoaster says:

    Thanks so much for following my blog–you present an interesting window into the homeless world. It is one simultaneously filled with humor and sadness, beauty and brokenness. I’m part of a tiny non-profit (Milo Group, Inc.) that’s trying to help walk alongside and equip them to break out of the cycle that so often accompanies homelessness. As with any similar program, we have mixed outcomes, but the process is worth fighting through. 🙂


    • dcardiff says:

      I truly appreciate what you are doing. I see many groups that offer help to the homeless; volunteers who bring sandwiches, socks, toiletries. It is very much appreciated. I praise you and your group for what you are doing.

      I will be beck to your blog often. We share many interests in common. ~ Dennis.


      • wordcoaster says:

        Thank you! It’s heartbreaking to hear the stories from such an at-risk population. Too often they’re left with little hope. Visit any time you like! 🙂


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