Saturday evening I found myself enjoying some amazing Indian food with Shelby, Mike and Kenny. We’d spent the entire afternoon and evening enjoying the Fort Greene Fair so by the time evening had hit we were tired, hungry and thirsty. As always, it wasn’t long before our conversation took a dramatic turn towards the obnoxious, hilarious and unsightly discoveries we’ve all made in New York City. After noticing a homeless person nearby, Kenny began sharing a few stories of his own close encounters with the homeless.
“Man, tell me why one time I was tryin to enjoy a bagel and this homeless woman sat there cryin!?” Kenny exclaimed to us.
“Crying? Where were you dude?” I asked.
“I went to this little bagel shop, just a couple blocks from here actually. I got my bagel, sat down on their little outside patio and started eating. It was cut down the middle and also in half, so I had four pieces. I’m on the second piece and I hear wimpering. I look to my side and it’s a homeless woman sitting there cryin her eyes out while she’s staring at my bagel! I couldn’t believe it,” Kenny told us.
“Aww man,” Shelby said as she shook her head. “So you gave her some of yours, right?”
“Nah, I sure didn’t. I kept eatin mine,” he admitted.
While Shelby and I shook our heads in disgust, Mike burst out laughing. “You a fool, dog!”
“I worked hard to buy my bagel. Why should I give her some just because she’s crying? I sat there and continued to eat my bagel. I was going to enjoy my food. I wasn’t about to let her ruin that for me,” Kenny explained. “So yeah, I was on my work Blackberry, eating my bagel and she’s steadily crying. By the time I got to the fourth piece I was feeling alright so I offered her some.”
“Man Kenny, you offered her your last little quarter of a piece AFTER you were full? Come on dude,” I admonished.
“Yeah, I did. But it was MY bagel. At least I offered. But get this you guys. After I asked her if she wanted it, she gonna ask me, ‘What kind is it?'” He said in disgust.
We all HOWLED out in laughter! That was so hilarious to us! All four of us sat at the table, not believing the audacity of the question. If you’re starving, one would think the LAST thing you would be worried about is what kind of bagel it was that someone was offering you.
“Oh no, it gets worse. I looked at her for a second, face frowned up, and told her ‘It’s whole wheat and whole grain with some butter on it.’ She looked kind of funny but nodded her head and said, ‘Okay, I’ll take it.’ After I handed it to her she looked closer at it then asked, ‘What’s this black stuff on it?'”
Again, we all DIED laughing. Who was this homeless woman that Kenny ran into?
Kenny continued. “I told her I didn’t know. She shrugged her shoulders, ate it, then asked me would I buy her one.”
“Well you did, didn’t you?” Shelby and I asked in unison.
“No I didn’t. Again, it’s MY money. I didn’t have to even offer her the bit of the bagel I did give her,” Kenny said. “So then you know what this woman does? She asks me if she gives me the money will I go buy one for her?”
“What!?” we all exclaimed. “Well you did, right?” Shelby and I were unwilling to believe that Kenny was as cold-hearted as he was coming off.
“Yeah, I told her I would. She asks, ‘How much is it?’ I told her, ‘$2.50.’ But this is what she does. She starts going through her pockets looking for money. Only thing is, I’m seeing all kinds of $20’s and $10’s. She had obviously stored money in all these different pockets in her coat and was struggling to find three singles to pay for the bagel. Do yall hear me right now? This woman was STRUGGLING to find single dollar bills amidst a bunch of bigger bills. She must’ve had a couple hundred dollars on her. I’ve never seen anything like it!”
“That’s crazy! So what’d you do next?” I asked.
“Well she finally found three singles, I went and got the bagel for her and when I got back I handed over the bagel. Guess what she said to me when I handed her back her change?” Kenny asked.
Mike responded, “Keep the change?”
“Yup,” Kenny said. “That homeless woman told me to keep the change.”
This entire story has me looking at the homeless with a more critical eye. Here in New York City, finding employment isn’t the most difficult of tasks. Truth be told, I moved up here on a Friday night with ZERO job prospects and found myself employed at a restaurant making nice money by that following Monday afternoon. For the homeless here, general janitorial work would be pretty easy to come by, in addition to recycling plastic bottles, and other small tasks. Many have admitted they prefer begging because it is more profitable. According to Shelby, who once questioned a “homeless” man about his “employment,” i.e. begging, he said no he would not consider sweeping and that depending on the night, he actually did pretty well. One can only imagine what “pretty well” means.