Monday, January 23, 2012

How I made a fool of myself in front of a homeless man today

I would like to preface this post by stating that I do not dislike homeless people. I am simply discomforted to the point of awkward burbling and drooling every time I walk past them. I think the growing number of homeless people is a serious problem that is consistently overlooked. However, that's not what you're here to read about. You're here to read about why I can't seem to just walk past them like a normal human being.

Now, I grew up near Chicago so I am not ignorant of homelessness. I have worked in soup kitchens, and with a program that offers a bed and a meal for homeless people for a night.

AND YET. Walking past someone who is shaking a can of change under my nose will consistently cause me to babble uncontrollably or perhaps stand in a state of frigid guilt. Much like Troy, when he meets LeVar Burton:


I'm sorry did I just loosely compare LeVar Burton to homeless people? Lets move past that. My apologies, Mr. Burton. And in case anyone is curious, I love him most from Reading Rainbow, not Star Trek. 

I think in order to understand my discomfort with walking past homeless people, we need to go back about 6 years. I was in Chicago with my sister Katie, my dad, and my sister's friend, who was from New Zealand. (Katie, you should let me know if I'm remembering this wrong, because I was 15 at the time and details are fuzzy). But as I recall, we had just finished eating pizza at Lou Malnati's. (BEST pizza in Chicago. Don't go to Gino's East, their crust is too bready) Katie's friend from New Zealand (lets call him Frodo) saw a homeless man with a sign that said "hungry and homeless, please help."

Frodo wanted to give the man his pizza, but we told him it was a bad idea. The homeless man might be insulted by the leftovers, etc. However, Frodo insisted. He put the box of pizza at the man's feet (The man was sitting cross-legged with his head bowed) and we started walking away. When the man saw the pizza, he looked up, grabbed the pizza box, and started walking quickly towards us. I had no idea what was happening. Was he mad? Was he thankful? Just then the man stopped in front of us, threw the pizza into the garbage, glared at us, and went back to his sitting spot. 

Wasted Lou Malnati's! And let me tell you guys, you don't just throw away Lou Malnati's. 


I was traumatized. Lets remember that I was 15, and quite easily distressed. He seemed so insulted, and so angry at us.   

Flash forward everyone, to the present day. In fact, flash forward to about 6 hours ago. Since the pizza incident, I have never known what to say or do when I walk past homeless people, for fear of insulting them. This incident actually occurred earlier today:

Scene: I walk casually from one job to my other job, down State Street. Suddenly, I realize that in about 2 blocks, I will have to walk past a homeless man who has his coffee cup extended, asking for money. (yes, I start freaking about these things BLOCKS in advance)

My thought process: **Should I look left, past him? I should give him change. BLAST, I have zero change. How is that possible? What kind of person only carries debit cards? Oh right, broke people. I'll look right, and ignore him. NO, YOU FOOL. That's rude. He's a person. Look him in the eye. No. No, don't do that. He might say something. WHY am I sweating? ONE BLOCK LEFT. I should cross the street. No. Too late for an evasive maneuver. 10 steps left... he has locked on. He's calling me young lady and asking for a few quarters. WHAT DO I DO? Smile. No! Too late I'm smiling. STOP SMILING, Smiley McSmilerson! Say something!**

"mehhh HERghh no change ha ha ha I don't have money. Well not with me I mean... I - oh goddd. I forgot my wallet. Nope, it's in my hand. But it's... empty..."

And then I KID YOU NOT, I dove into the nearest store. Except the nearest store was, in fact, Nogginz. A hair cut/beauty parlor place. I walk in, sweaty and babbling. The woman asks if I have an appointment.

Me: I... don't. Ha ha ha. I actually just got a haircut (**shut it, Hannah. SHUT IT NOW. Turn around and leave! **) I was wondering if you guys have Bed Head products. (**In my panic I couldn't think of ANY designer brands. Mostly because I don't know any designer brands**). 
Woman: Um, no we don't. But I'm pretty sure they sell those at Walgreens. And CVS. And Target.
Me: Oh right! I'll go there! Thanks!


So I have no idea what causes the butt-clenchingly awkward reaction every time I walk past a homeless person... but there it is. Am I alone in this? Am I insensitive and awkward beyond recognition?


  1. This made me laugh out loud at work, and not just a "HA!" but an uncontrollable laugh that slowly built. Thanks for the laugh!

    I know what you mean about feeling awkward or nervous around homeless people. Once a homeless man asked me for change and I replied with, "No. THANK YOU!" I thanked the man for asking me for money ... who does that?!

  2. The key is headphones and a dead stare. SURE, I've accidentally also ignored friends trying to get my attention. But at least I can pretend like I don't even see the homeless (and clipboard-carrying) people.