The man in the picture above is an aggressive panhandler.
I know this because he was on my south bound 6 Jackson Park bus approximately around 9:40 last night trying to sell his “artwork” and “poetry.”
When that didn’t work, he would try the sympathy route and claim that he was a Vietnam Veteran who was down on his luck.
He attempted to verify his “veteran” status by lifting up his shirt and showing some very deep and long scars on his torso and his back.
Luckily most people knew that this individual was nothing more than an evolved panhandler---you know the kind, the guys who will sell you a free paper like the RedEye for a dollar---and didn’t fall for his blarney.
One man, who was with his son, gave him some money but everyone else politely refused his requests for “donations.”
The mood on the front of the bus was uncomfortable and tense.
If you’re a Chicagoan and you rely on public transportation, these scenes are not uncommon. There’s always someone panhandling, being aggressive, invading your space or playing their music too loud.
You just have to abide it. A request for someone to behave civilly may result in violence towards your person.
You don’t know who’s on or off their meds or who has a gun or a knife.
So despite exchanging looks with other patrons, those of us at the front of the bus let him loudly ramble on; moving on to the next person in search of a handout.
When he ran out of University of Chicago kids to bother, he started on the “regular” black south siders.
Let me explain---Loud conversations aside, the University of Chicago kids are a peaceful lot. For the most part they mind their business and behave like they have some home training. Unfortunately while their education and manners will serve them well in the real world, it is a definite liability when dealing with people like our aggressive panhandler.
The fact that most of them stand out on the south side because they aren’t black only adds to the “easy pickings” mentality of some scam artists.
So generally, when some scam artist is on the CTA looking for a “donation” to their youth group, ministry or for their own personal enrichment, they make a beeline for the young white (or Asian) University of Chicago kids.
They know better than to approach the black woman dressed in a security uniform on her way to work. Or the guy who has that “don’t talk to me “ look on his face.
I’m not saying black people don’t get panhandled but in my experience we’re not the first ones who get the pitch if a white person is around.
At least, that’s what I’ve seen in my nearly ten years of living south.
After his numerous pitches failed on the college kids, our aggressive panhandler zeros in on a black lady sitting next to me carrying a pie. She had not engaged him in conversation. She had not even looked his way.
She seemed like she had just gotten off of work and just wanted to go home. She pulled the cord as her stop approached and readied herself to get off the bus.
“Hey girl,” The panhandler said, “Can I have some of your pie?”
She may not have heard him or perhaps she simply chose not to respond as she continued to the front of the bus.
The panhandler responded by saying “It looks like she already had too much pie.”
That, my friends, is when my sister girl came out in all her teeth sucking, eye rolling, calling fools out glory.
And it was on.