I read in some book where the author warned against befriending the neighborhood addicts. Like stray animals, once you start feeding them (so to speak) they won’t go away. Don’t know if you remember this post, but I adhere to a hard and fast rule about panhandling in that I do not participate. (usually) This rule mainly applies to folk that are just passing through. If I don’t see you begging for money on a regular basis, then the chance of you getting any money from me is next to none.
But back to this next character, we’ll call him Jon because he told me that was his name. He’s broken man. A pronounced limp, scraggly beard, wears a beat up ball cap and maintains a Pig-Pen like aura about him. He hustles at the same gas station as that newspaper-window-washer dude. In fact, he has the same hustle as the newspaper-window-washer dude AND for a small time period Jon and NWWD were competing to be ignored by the majority of this Chevron’s customers.
I buy gas often, so I see Jon often, and seeing someone everyday breeds a certain familiarity. He asks to either clean my windows or pump my gas. I never let him do either. For whatever reason, he talks to me, even introduced me to his son. (an odd moment indeed) Well I know the reason, it’s because even though I don’t let him dirty up my windows with the dirty cleaning fluid they keep at Chevron, or pump gas in my car, I do give him money. Last couple of times I’ve seen him, I’ve been uncharacteristically flush with cash and hit him off with a fiver. (which is a panhandler no-no) Now when I see him he greets me with more enthusiasm. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I give him a pound and then disinfect my hands with sanitizer when I get in the car.
Those of you familiar with the historic streets of Third Ward, Houston know the diverse community that has come to live there. A little bit of bourgeouis plus a little bit of ‘hood. A slight real estate boom and aggressive gentrification might have upped the property value in some parts of the neighborhood, but there are still areas of Third Ward that remain true to its *ahem* urban flavor.
Take for instance the corner of Dowling and Southmore. Specifically the Chevron on the corner of Dowling and Southmore. This gas station is the typical corner spot gas station. They serve what the neighborhood needs. Fried chicken, burrito’s, chips, candy, bootleg jewelery and bootleg Obama gear all slightly overpriced.
All of these things bring a certain amount of aggravation on a bad day. But none are more bothersome than the homeless hustlers (we’ll refrain from calling them crackheads since I have no actual knowledge of their drug use) who mill about the station offering their specious services to unsuspecting patrons. In general, a hard line must be taken and reaffirmed regularly. Any money given to these types has just purchased you a friendship that will cost you cents on the dollar everytime they see your car.
Since I frequent this station, I’ve laid down a good track record of refusals to limit my harrasment when I get my gas. The wife on the other hand fell victim to one of the newer homeless hustlers working the station. I saw him coming up while I was pumping gas and didn’t think anything of it, but the wife had her window down. He made his pitch, clean windows for $.75. Impressed by his appeal to work for money instead of beg, the wife accepted his offer.
that is newspaper in his hand
He dashed back to wherever he kept his cleaning products and dashed back to complete the job. All of this would have been a minor annoyance if he hadn’t almost knocked me over to get to the squeegee that was waiting for action in dirty water. So he hits the windows with the spongy side of the squeegee and doesn’t wipe it off with the the blade side. The result? Dirty water on dirty windows. Then he pulls out his own cleaner; a spray bottle that contains more dirty water, but with bubbles. He sprays the cleaner fluid on top of the dirty water that was dripping down the dirty windows. How would you wipe off dirty water on a dirty window? With a balled up piece of newspaper of course. Long story short, I gave the man an extra $2.00 to stop.