Sometimes I like to imagine that good deeds I do during the day do not go unnoticed and that those who are the beneficiaries of my legendary generosity will turn around and do great things with their lives.
Especially the guy who wears long underwear and a trench coat on the corner of New York Avenue and 1st streets who carries a befouled and wilting ancient coffee cup to collect change with.
You may not know this PARTICULAR guy but I’m sure you have your own Long John Silver standing at an intersection near your home looking for some coin and rapping on your window.
Since I was born with Roman catholic shame already built-in, I am immediately bowled over by the wave of guilt that washes up on my shores followed in quick succession by the following emotions.
Fear – He’s got me trapped at the light, I can’t pretend I don’t see him when he is punching the driver’s side window and delivering spittle missiles onto the glass with his unhinged rant.
Anger – As we all know from Yoda, terror almost immediately morphs into rage and that causes drivers stuck in gridlock to fume. This makes them less jovial and far more unlikely to part with the dollar bill that is sitting in the change holder.
Resignation – I wasn’t really going to do anything with that dollar anyway and he’ll move on over to the Wendy’s to get a value meal so I better roll down the window and just get on with it.
The worst part of all this is that on good days this cycle repeats itself and trench coat guy gets his snack and maybe a drink if one or more additional drivers come to the same conclusion.
On bad days?
I’m surly and in a rush and can’t be bothered to hand over cash to someone who is pestering me.
So what I end up teaching the three kids who are en route with me is that on good days you give to the poor and help them out a little during what is probably an existence of such abysmal depths that your spoiled pampered ass couldn’t even dredge up the imagery sufficient to do it justice.
And on bad days you just drive right the fuck past them because you are in a hurry and in no mood to deal with such things.
To be fair, I think a majority of my need to ignore these situations comes from driving into New York City on so many occasions with the advice of both parents still ringing in my young ears.
“Never make eye contact with anyone and under no circumstances are you to open a window if someone comes up to you”
The images of window washers trying to disembowel me with their teeth and pedestrians who had the power to destroy me with the simple but always overlooked visual death rays weighed heavy on my tender mind and left me with the life long impression that everyone was out to get me.
It took years before I could hand change to the guy outside the Burger King without breaking into a survival sprint.
When I got my first ounce of non terror inspired common sense I realized that we are not, in fact , living in the bleak post apocalyptic landscape of Snake Plissken and friends, and that other humans may just want to make contact for the hell of it. Apparently it’s not all about battling to the death. Who knew?
I still keep my distance from sad clowns and mimes who give public performances expecting money, but my contribution frequency to the guy in traffic has increased a thousandfold.