Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

December 4, 2012

Looking for a handout?

By Mike Redmond

— Had an unusual encounter with a panhandler the other day, and in my neighborhood, that is saying something.

We get a lot of panhandling here. Business is so good they come right up to the front door sometimes, saving me the trouble of running into them on the street. People have told me they do this because they've made some sort of secret mark around my house, indicating that I am a sucker. I know this to be untrue because:

1. I've looked. No mark.

2. I am no sucker, as you shall see.

My favorite panhandlers are the ones with elaborate story details about why they are asking me to dig into my wallet and hand over my allowance.

The most common ones involve needing diapers for a baby daughter - never a son - or a pound of hamburger for their kids.

I find if I just let the panhandler keep talking, the story gets more and more interesting, invariably winding up with the fact that he (never she) hopes I don't hold it against him, but he just got out of prison and he's learned his lesson but nobody will hire him and he's desperate. The last part strikes me as being the most truthful, although I think his desperation has something to do with the liquor store around the corner or, as I like to call it, the Community Center.

In the past, I used to keep a package of disposable diapers and a pound of hamburger ready, and upon hearing these stories would offer them. For some reason, no panhandler ever accepted. They were always the wrong kind of diaper, and they didn't want to feed their children meat from a strange source.

Now I just say "I've heard this one before" and pretend to not have control of my dog.

My favorite is the story you get in parking lots about having run out of gas and needing money to attend a funeral in Anderson. And it's always Anderson. You'd think someone would shake it up by having a dead relative in Kokomo or Logansport, but nope. All the dead relatives are in Anderson, waiting to be sent off into the next life as soon as their nieces and nephews get a tank full of gas.

I once heard this one three times in one day by three different people in three different parking lots. And I also heard it twice in one day, in parking lots several miles from one another, from the same person.

In retrospect, I should have given them all a little money. You usually have to pay quite a bit for this much entertainment.

Which gets me to my recent encounter. I was leaving the grocery when a guy approached. I expected a story, or at least the old "Can you spare some change?" come-on. Instead, I got: "Hey, man, you wouldn't have a 20-dollar bill, would you?"

I have to admit I was stunned for a moment. I'm used to being asked for a quarter, and here was this panhandler wanting 20 bucks. I'll give the guy this: He had brass.

But so do I.

So when he asked if I had a 20-dollar bill, I smiled and said: "I sure do."

Then I got in my truck and drove away.

Poor guy. He should have asked for hamburger.

© 2012 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.