Arizona Daily Wildcat February 23, 1998
Tips to improve our quality of begging
I have lived in Santa Barbara, Livermore, San Antonio and Phoenix. But I have never lived in a place where the quality of begging was worse than Tucson's. I have never been less sympathetic, less willing to give money or more shocked by a beggar. These people are horrible at their jobs.
I am used to quality beggars. People who really look down on their luck and pathetic. People who haven't bathed, obviously wouldn't be hired anywhere and haven't had a decent meal in months. People who look like they need your money or they'll die.
The people here look like me. When a man approaches me for money, I can't help but think, hey, I can't afford those jeans. Sure, I realize that we must have sympathy for those less fortunate, but to what degree? When do we say enough is enough? For example, I have a hard time giving money to a person whose face has been replaced with $400 worth of metal due to piercings. Don't get the damn piercings and maybe you could get a job and afford your own beer.
Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting some type of begging prohibition; if you're down on your luck, you just may have to turn to it. What I am doing is criticizing the ability of the beggars around here. There are so many other beggars, you'd better have an edge to stay competitive. Begging is a game closely related to poker. You have to have a straight face, the ability to bluff and insight into the opponent's mind.
If you are desperate for money, I have a few begging suggestions for you: First, honesty is not the best policy. If you are begging for money, I would rather be blissfully ignorant to the fact that I am enabling you. Please do not tell me what you need the money for. Second, the old "life-is-rough-my-wife-left-me-and-ran-over-my-dog-as-my-house-burned" (lifted directly from a country song) story doesn't work any more. I have heard the same stock story over and over enough times that I can say it along word for word with you, Mr. Beggar. Third, try to feign insanity. I am very willing to give you money to satisfy the voices, simply because I can empathize. Fourth, when you do beg, try not to reek of whiskey, it doesn't really pull on the old heart-strings. Fifth, Tommy Hilfiger, Jnco and Gap are not good clothes to be begging in. You're a beggar, try dirt. It's a lot more credible.
Here are some lines used to try and hit me up for money:
"Man, my Porsche just ran out of gas and I'm on my way to (insert city here), can you spare some?" This guy didn't get any money from me.
"Dude, I need some dope. Can you spare any money?" Neither did he.
"Give me money." Nah.
"Can you spare some change so I can buy beer? I'll hook you up, too." Yep. This is the correct approach.
Every religion that comes to mind encourages aiding the poor, giving to charity. And I agree with this. There are those out there who really are just having a bad time and they need our help. For example, there is a woman we have all seen who lives on the street somewhere around East University Boulevard. She has clay in her hair and the weather in her skin. It is obvious to me that she has lived here a long time and that some form of insanity has led her to this point where perhaps help isn't really an option.
The rest of you, get a job. If you can't get a job, try the homeless shelters. They'll hook you up with a shower, some food, maybe even a haircut. There are plenty of organizations that are more than willing to help out someone who wants to help themselves.
Ezekiel Buchheit is a freshman majoring in English. His column, "I Like Biscuits," appears every Monday.