The Schizophrenic Philanthropist


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.



Filed under escape from new york literally, give to the poor NO don't wait do, I'm nice and then i'm not, lessons I should teach my kids, snake plissken, why I should try harder

18 responses to “The Schizophrenic Philanthropist

  1. Tom G.

    I long ago discovered a simple solution to this dilemma. I just avoid human contact of all types regardless of the situation. I’ve told the kids that it is part of my monastic vow of silence.

    • dufmanno

      But see, I’m trying to increase my face time with the outside world while spitting in the face of fear so this doesn’t work for me anymore.
      A couple of times I was nice to the wrong people who instantly attached to me like a barnacle but I eventually scraped them off and wandered away.

  2. Here in London they’re opportunists, they hover near the cash point machines, so people taking money out feel guilty…

    I think life would be much more fun if it were like Escape from New York as long as we had Snake Plissken about , no fun without him. Now I want to wear leather and an eye-patch….

    • dufmanno

      Do you know that when I rewatched Escape From New York recently I noticed that there is a guy in it that hisses like a cat to communicate with others?
      I’m serious.

  3. um i’m still a bitch living in fear. but all of this talk of wendy’s and burger king have me wanting a royale with cheese.

    • dufmanno

      I find fast food calms my inner neurotic better than any fistful of pills.
      Still, remember a *little* bit of fear is good for the soul. It’s what allows me to run super fast when someone is chasing me.

  4. Okay, this may forever brand me the most horrible-est (?) of capitalist c*nts, but I rarely (if ever) give to beggars. It’s kind of a thing.

    Go the the shelter – I volunteer there. (Really.)

    Play me a song – I give to buskers just about every day (In the tube, or wherever else I see them).

    Offer to clean my car windows or shine shoes – no problem.

    But just sitting there, waiting to pray on “guilt sufferers” without actually making any effort at all?

    Can’t do it.

    Then again, I did once give a fiver to a beggar who said as I walked past, “Please, can you spare me some money so I can go get p*ssed? I’m not hungry, I don’t need a bed. I need vodka.”

    I dunno. I could kinda respect that.

    – B x

    • I actually like it when they tell you they are going to get a drink with it. The power of simple honesty compels others to think “You know what? I need a drink too. I feel you.”

  5. I used to always wrap up my left overs after eating out to give to homeless peeps. Then one guy yelled at me because the meat was overcooked and chased me half a block. I don’t do that anymore.

  6. See, I’m more scared of the guys in traffic than mimes. The guys in traffic could carjack me. Mimes I can just lock in an invisible box.

    • You know mimes always carry an invisible key to that box right?
      My favorite used to be the windshield washer guys that made my window dirtier than it had been before I stopped.

  7. Growing up, I knew most of the homeless people in my ‘hood. My mom would have them over for Thanksgiving every year. Whenever we entered Washington Square Park they’d all holler their hellos. I don’t know which was more terrifying. Them knowing me or my mom barefoot. I just wanted a “normal” community. Careful what you wish for. Now I’ve got one and I can barely find a heartbeat.

    • That sounds completely normal to me.
      I will say that your mom is a better person than I am because I definitely wouldn’t be having people over who wear heavy coats in summer.
      I’m thinking I might branch out and live on a commune for awhile.

  8. michael freeman

    “Its nice to be nice to the nice…….” Too bad about the Wedding cancellation….(although it was even money at best)….Anne, Beth and I were looking forward to an awesome hang with you guys,but it can wait….BTW love the new Town Hall approcach to your responses…..please feel no pressure…teehhee

    • When you say town hall approach it makes me feel more in control and important than I actually am. It’s like I wield the power of a slimy politician and a small hamlet dweller with just the flick of my wrist.
      Sad about missing the opportunity to hang out, but I’ll get on my broomstick and fly up there this summer.

      • michael freeman

        Or down,…since we will be in FantasyLand (aka Pleasantville) all summer…but you guys know thats an open ended invitation anyway…especially with a reworked Star Wars attraction/Wizarding World of HP…in the mix….Ive decided to theme my condo like George Jetson meets Don Draper….so far it really doesnt work

  9. So, is now an acceptable time to point out we don’t have beggars here? Like, ever! I only see them when I travel and I give, I can’t help it. Maybe I suffer from Sympathy Guilt?

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