1. I wouldn't think twice about handing my camera over to a complete stranger in order for them to snap a picture of me and the person I was with. I would probably then stand there, looking slightly confused, as he ran away with it.
2. I appreciate the superiority of drinking in a barn, as opposed to a trendy nightclub. No liquor laws in a barn.
3. I will open doors, pull out chairs and probably even lay my jacket over a mud puddle, if there is ever a lady in need. Unless we're talking about my leather jacket. Then she can get her fucking feet wet.
4. Upon realizing that I need to venture out of my apartment for supplies, I can still be heard to remark "Hey, anyone want to go uptown?". A fact that my city-raised friends continue to mock me about.
5. I cannot refuse someone begging for spare change. Well until a few days ago anyway. A few days ago, I hit my breaking point.
90% of my life has been spent living in towns with a population of 5000 or less. As you can imagine, homeless people accosting me for my change has never been an issue I gave much thought to. I don't think I even seen my first bum until I was in my teens. It just wasn't something you see in small town southern Manitoba.
If I happened to be visiting someone in a larger city, most of my time was spent seeking out destinations, not walking around questionable neighborhoods. The odd time that I did see a homeless person, I would gladly reach into my pocket and give them whatever loose change I had on me. It's not like I'm a saint or anything. I wasn't handing out paper, but it warmed my heart a bit when the recipient would smile and thank me excessively for my meager donation. A couple of bucks once every six months wasn't going to kill me after all.
Even for the majority of my city living experience, I haven't really been exposed to that much poverty. While I don't live in a rich neighborhood, it is fairly nice. I can barely ever hear sirens at night, have never gotten my apartment broken into, and have never once been mugged. In my experience, those are all just things that happen "over there". Well lately, I've been spending more and more time "over there", due to the fact that the person I've been spending a lot of time with lately, lives "over there". It's not so bad that I have to worry about getting stabbed while I'm visiting, but its a bit rougher than my neighborhood, to be sure.
Venturing into this neighborhood requires two buses. The first bus takes me from the safety and security of my nice little neighborhood, smack dab into the middle of downtown Winnipeg. I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with Winnipeg, but downtown Winnipeg isn't exactly the greatest place to raise your kids, if you know what I mean. Here, I have to wait for about 20 minutes until my second bus arrives and speeds me onto my destination. In that 20 minutes, I am usually asked to part with my change no fewer than 347 times. It's fucking crazy. Until I finally grew a set and started saying no, this 20 minutes would end up costing me roughly 50 bucks a week. Not Rockefeller dollars, I know, but I'm on a budget dammit. That unreleased bootleg DVD copy of The Video Dead ain't going to buy itself, you know.
Saying I "grew a set" is probably still too generous though. You see, I still can't say no. At the same time, I'm sick of giving away all of my money. The only option is quite obvious. I lie. I fucking lie to homeless people. No, I don't feel good about it, but I do it anyway. Don't look at me like that. They fucking lie to me too. Take this example (100% true) from a few weeks back. I was standing by my bus stop, listening to my MP3 player, trying to pretend I didn't see the guy currently advancing on me (wearing expensive sneakers no less).
Bum: Hey buddy....got any change?
Moi: ........... (still pretending not to see or hear him)
Bum: (waving his hand in front of my face) Hey buddy...spare some change. I need to catch the bus.
Moi: FUCK YOU! Where did you get those fucking nice sneakers if you can't even afford bus fare. You fucking social pariah........
Is what I was thinking. What I actually said was more like this:
Moi: Sorry, but I only have enough change for my own bus fare. Maybe next time.
Bum: Hold on one second....
At which point he retreats back to the group of bums huddled just around the corner. They were coming up with a battle plan. By the way, don't you think there should be a specific term for a group of bums? Like: A gaggle of bums, or a flock of bums. Let's go with flock.
So the flock of bums is conferring and figuring out what to do. They seem to reach a consensus and the initial bum returns with a bus ticket in hand.
Bum: What if I sold you this bus ticket?
Moi: Well if you have a bus ticket, then why do you need my change?
This confused the bum, and he actually comically scratched his head. Realizing he had been defeated, he scowled at me and went on his way.
Motherfucker lied to me! Now I may be old fashioned, but I likes my bread white, my coffee black and my bums honest. Bastard..
"Sorry, I don't have any change"
"Sorry, I just have enough for the bus"
"I just gave it all to that guy"
"I don't speak English"
Any one or combination of these does the trick, although I don't understand why I can't just say "NO". Is it because I'm generally a nice guy? No, I don't think so. Is it because I care what bums think about me? Probably not.
I think I'm just a chicken shit. I can be pretty intimidating when I want to be. Over 6' tall, topping 200 lbs. Broad masculine shoulders. Mysterious, piercing eyes....you get the picture. But the truth is that I'm so fucking white collar, its sick. I don't like to get my hands dirty, and lying seems much more attractive than possibly having to fend off dirty, pissed homeless people, you know what I mean? But my patience is starting to run oh so thin. Why can't I just fucking wait for my bus in peace, instead of having to deal with this shit? One of these days I'm just going to snap and respond "Yeah, I've got change. Lots of change. Don't you love the sound it makes when it jingles in your pocket? But you can't have this change. This is my change. You're going to have to get your own. Now fuck off."
And lest you think I'm a total asshole, I assure you I'm not talking about people that are just down on their luck and can't afford to eat. 9 out of 10 bums that confront me are drunk. And I mean "barely standing, slurring, smelly" drunk. The other one is usually wearing nicer clothes than I have. What the fuck!?!?!?! My kingdom for a nice, starving bum that isn't just looking for their next hit, or is just too lazy to find a job. Fucking McDonald's is always hiring. Grab a bath in the river and apply. They'll hire you.
I love Winnipeg, but this is getting ridiculous.