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The Panhandling Game

Like most modern, large cities, San Francisco has no shortage of homelessness or panhandlers. What I was unaware of was the level of organization.

I had to do a mid-afternoon run to Walgreens to drop off some photos to be developed. While I was standing there the manager was detained by a guy pressuring him to “cut me a deal, man” such that the juice that was on sale would have a similar price discount applied to another juice. The manager insisted that that was not possible and after a bit of a give and take the customer relented and went on his merry way.

As luck would happen the price-conscious patron was headed to the corner by my office to meet up with his wife and daughter. As he approached the little girl, adorably perched on a retaining wall edge yelled: “It’s Daddy! I want kisses!”

“My goodness,” thought I, “the man was doing it for his family!” I was touched by the dream of a scrappy family minding the dimes and quarters in this Maybach and Cristal city. I headed back to the office slightly warmer from the emotional sunshine.

A few hours later it was time to leave and as I reapproached the same corner. There I saw the wife and the adorable daughter. Daughter was swinging on mom’s leg, mom held a cup out, a sign was up asking for change.

As I lingered reconciling what I was seeing with what I had seen, I peeked quickly but keenly through the tall grasses in the garden behind the aforementioned retaining wall. There I could hear Daddy sniffling.

I suppose he was there to lurk out of scene to make sure that the girls weren’t interfered with in their money-making.

I walked away a bit more jaded than I was before.

I came to a woman seated on the sidewalk with two dirty tots sitting next to her on a flattened cardboard box. The cup was out. An older gentleman in a find hat passed them and turned back with a dollar in his hand.

To the poor or to the pimps?

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