Monday, September 6, 2010

Trading Talent for Money

In case you haven’t heard, the economy isn’t doing so well. There are lots of everyday signs this is the case: the shuttered store fronts in neighborhoods, the reduced number of people on the commuter trains, and the increase in people asking for money.

The third point is probably the most visible: My subway car was graced with three panhandlers on Friday. Three panhandlers in the span of approximately 20 minutes! The first was a woman whose story included her three hungry children. She managed to win over a fair number of people. The next was a man who was disfigured. He also managed to get some help. The last was a musical group. They boarded with drums and played for half a stop, did a sweep of the car, and were off at the next stop. They actually did better than the other two possibly because they offered something for the money—they sang for their supper!

I was sort of the surprised. I would have though by the time the third group appeared, people would just ignore them. But it wasn’t the same people who reached into pockets and purses for the musicians. In fact, after I thought about it, giving happened in rounds. The first group of givers broke the ice with the woman, and others followed suit with subsequent panhandlers. From my vantage point, it didn’t seem as though the same people continued to hand out spare change.

In recent weeks past, a Doo-wop quartet has also been a part of my ride home. I'm not sure if these are the same guys, but I found a video on YouTube that shows a similar experience:

Are other people seeing the same thing? What have you noticed about public response to panhandling?

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