Monday, June 2, 2008

Adventures in Bum Lies.....

It has been a little less than a year since I made my move to the big, bad city. Up until now, my living arrangements had always been decidedly rural in nature. I don't know if you could say I'm proud of being raised in a small town, but I'm not really embarrassed about it either. It just is what it is. But even though I may be indifferent about this, I can still recognize some telltale signs that I just might be a little bit country. And no, I'm not nearly in the league of "redneck".

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 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 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.


Anonymous said...

LOL try working downtown there it is worse than just standing out there for 20 mins.... the bus ticket is actually an old trick i think it was last year i was waiting for a bus at confusion corner and someone asked if i would buy there bus ticket for a dollar... lol good deal if you ask me but i declined it i usually just say no to everyone... but if you really want to confuse the bum and if you have the nerve to do it do this trick i would say try it in public area you never know what the crazies have under there tattered clothing.... next time you see a bum coming at you and you know he looks like he is coming to ask you for a smoke or change... turn to him and ask him before he gets at you.... its hilarious to see them stop and be like uh uh uh i was gonna jus ask you da same thing duhhhh as bum scratches his head and walks away...

ive been here for almost 9 years im still country at heart and get a kick out of the city folk... i have one friend who actually thinks he has been to a bush party pfffft im like what bush party you mean that time you had some drinks and a fire at st vital park hahahahahahahaha


oh love the rufas pic... BUMFIGHTS!!!!

Heather said...

I totally grew up in the city and I was poor and never had a car or friends with cars and took the bus everywhere. You just kind of get used to saying "sorry". I have to admit to a little cruelty. We used to glue coins together and give them those, or my husband's favorite was to take a well used paper lunch sack and fill it with pennies. You have to be sure the bag is weak for this to work. Twist the bag closed and carry it in your pocket. When you get accosted by a group of bums, pull the bag out and slam it as hard as you can on the ground. It will break open, sending pennies rolling every where, giving you the chance to run or jump on the bus. It's called a "bum bomb" and offers a quick escape. Alternately, you could fill a small sandwich back the same way and quickly dump it on the ground as you pull it out of your pocket.

The main reason I don't give money to bums anymore is the very reason you mentioned about the nice shoes. There were a husband and wife team of so called bums who used to work a corner near my husband's place of work. At the end of the day they would go up the hill into the shopping center parking lot and drive off in their fucking Lexus. No shit.

I think the reason you can't just tell them to kiss your ass is because mostly, our parents and teachers and friends all force us to be polite as kids and we learn that we shouldn't hurt other people's feelings on purpose. Some of us grow out of that, some don't. I am usually nice if I can be, however if I don't want to give a bum money, I do just say no, or give them a look and shake my head.

Kay** said...

if you think about it even further than that, these homeless guys obviously don't have the social skills to work at McDonalds. if they did, they wouldn't be where they are now. they would know better than to pester you for change that way - it's not like they do it just to be an asshole. so even if they applied to work at a fast food restaurant, they wouldn't be hired!

mind you, i don't give them change either, because you just never know what they'll end up doing with it. so even if they're drunk from the alcoholism that they've developed while trying to cope with life, i'd just hand them a sandwich, so at least they don't have to deal with an empty stomache on top of all their other bazillion problems.

Kris said...

Thanks for the great comments guys!

MD - I'll never be able to top your bum stories. A fucking hobo shit in a plant outside your store for christs sake!

Heather - Your bum bomb comment made me laugh so hard, milk shot right out of my nose. And I wasn't even drinking milk.

Kay - I have actually given a bum a sandwich before, and you're right. It is a great idea. But not that funny.

Heather said...

When I was about 18-19 yrs old I worked at a park on the banks of the Ohio River. There was a female bum who lived down there and she would often attempt to bathe at the public landing and the cops would run her off for doing it. She would come to the concession stand and buy food or coffee, and was usually pushing a shopping cart. And she would pay for her hotdog with a fat roll of $20 bills. Her friend, a little old man, always had hundreds. And yet, they were homeless. I think the choice to be homeless has more to do with mental capacity more so than social skills or laziness or even alcoholism, among the bums I've known. Or maybe it's social commentary. "Here I am with a fat ass wad of cash and could very obviously have a traditional home, and yet I do not choose to give my hard earned (or begged for) cash to the establishment." Giving them food is a nice idea, very humanitarian.

furrychocolates said...

I still live in the country and only visit the city so I'm still taken aback by it.

I remember visiting Halifax to tour Dal university the summer before attending. Biggest city I had ever been to. There was a young pregnant girl sitting outside shopper's drug mart that asked for change as we went in. On the way back out, I looked over to see her holding a basketball and... guess what?!... she was no longer pregnant!

I will give money to a bum but I'm selective.

A flock of bums... hee hee.

CanadaDad said...

I used to feel bad about refusing to give bums change whenever I was in Winnipeg, but living in Victoria cured me of that.

You know at the end of a ball game when you line up and shake hands with the other team?

That's what it's like walking in downtown Victoria in the summer. The only difference is instead of "Thanks", "Good Game", "Thanks", "Good Game"..." it's "Spare change?", "Sorry", "Spare change?", "Sorry"...

They also let you off the hook easier than the Winnipeg bums. The Winnipeg bums will always try to negotiate or barter for change if they are turned down. In Victoria they accept the 'No' and move on to the next pedestrian. To them time is money.

BTW: Speaking of bums shitting in plants in public. Is THIS the incident you are referring to??

There are a lot of classy folk in Peg.

Romi said...

"grab a bath in the river and apply"....hahaha...classic and so true! I totally lie too when I see the bums, or sometimes I feel bad and pony up the change...I'd love to do the whole "oooh, listen to my change and you can't have it" bit, but ever since I heard that story of that innocent man in Toronto who didn't give change to homeless people and incidentally gotstabbed and killed, the lying approach feels pretty okay...

PS: "school" of bums? "herd" of bums? Nah, I like flock of bums too ;-)

Oatmeal said...

I have never given a homeless person money, but here in Vegas, it gets so hot out that in the summertime I always have several cold bottles of water in my car. If I see someone in need who isn't being obnoxious I give them a bottle or two.

I have a different problem though. I know that they have always hit people up going from their car to wherever, or at bus stops, but for some reason here it has become perfectly acceptable for them to approach every single car at a red light. When did this become a trend? I don't want you walking up to my car while I'm in it asking for money! If you're at the corner and I offer it, that's one thing, but don't invade my fucking personal space!!! Especially when my baby's in the car with me. I have threatened to hit more than one homeless man with my car if he took a step further.
Jesus, you are homeless. Try not to be menacing. Don't walk up to a woman alone in a car. Unless you really want to be hit or arrested. Then by all means, step on up...

Amber said...

Another good bum trick is to come up with an illegible piece of paper and tell you that they just got out of jail [here's their parole paper] and have an hour to make it home, and can they have $5 for the bus?

pfft. Screw that.

I've given bums bags of potato chips before (left over from my lunch), but that's really about it. There are too many con-artists trying to take your money than actual bums any more.