Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dear Seattle

Dear Seattle, 

It’s getting out of hand. The hand out crowd. I appreciate that everyone has his right to freedom of speech and all that. I get it that the sidewalk is a public place but I'm a nice person and should not be made to feel like a bastard each and every time I step out into your streets. 

Here's the thing. I am sorry that life has dealt you a shitty hand. I really am. Money is important for survival. So what sort of person would willingly pour out his life savings? With all certainty of a sample from last week’s commute I could give out -at just one dollar a person- close to $15 dollars every morning on my walk to work. And another $10 on my walk home at night. $25 dollars a day. 

$25 dollars is about what it costs to sponsor a non-profit or a child in Latin America for a month, while I’m on a roll. Maybe I should stop dodging the clip board wranglers too.

Seattle, you scare my mom. And friends from New York. The menace of being verbally assaulted has been known to be followed up by the actual threat of physical assault. I could go on about how many of these panhandlers spend the money handed to them on drugs, or talk about teaching a man to fish, but I know you’re not listening. 

I just want a little change downtown, is all. Can’t you help me? Fine, keep walking, ignore me.
Feels good, doesn’t it? 



  1. Today, a homeless gentleman asked if I could help him out. I said no out of pure instinct.

    I felt horrible.

    I have become so accustomed to that of which you write here that I said it without thinking. He said thank you, not in any other tone than the kind one he used when asking for help, and went on his way.

    That's why I felt horrible. He was a genuine human being looking for a little help to get through one more, cold, snowy day.

    The aggressive panhandling ruined me giving a helping hand to strangers.

    Yesterday, a guy followed me by yelling at me asking me to kill him, followed by if I liked my "iPod" (Android phone), that it was his and he had dropped it and has the serial number to prove it, I have a small penis until I finally managed to go a direction he apparently did not care to follow.

    The other week, a little old lady asked me where she could catch the next bus. But the thing is, she was behind me and started with "Excuse me, sir." and before she could utter another word I just yelled "Not today!"

    So, yes, thank you aggressive, rude and pathetic panhandlers for helping ruin my ability to be a decent human being to strangers on the cold streets of Seattle.

  2. Yeah, you have hit it exactly. I cannot be friendly or compassionate anymore. I want to, though. I used to be.

  3. Instead of writing passive aggressive notes in places where the targets of your criticism cannot ever read them, why not grow a pair and follow these easy steps:

    1. When a vagrant asks you for change, decide to either give it to them, or not to. Your decision can be random per vagrant, or you can have a universal policy for such matters. Whatever it is, make the decision, politely inform said person of the decision, and stop being a baby about it. If you feel bad denying that vagrant his whiskey change, then donate to a charity when you get home. These aren't starving masses of children in Calcutta we're talking about here.

    2. If a mentally ill person is making you uncomfortable, then ignore them and keep moving. If they are actually threatening you, then find or call a cop. Support efforts to offer treatment and shelter to those so afflicted, maybe through (oh, I shudder to think!) increased taxes.

    If you guys aren't capable of dealing with these people like adults, what do you expect the city to do about it? If there's anything more annoying than a vagrant with a sob story (true or not) designed to elicit pity, it's the sob story of someone in a much more secure position whining about those vagrants.

    It's rarely the panhandlers or mentally ill who you have to worry about physically. It's the groups of perfectly sane hoodlums who aren't in the habit of asking you for things. I would rather be followed by a single panhandler than a group of young adults whose intent seems malicious, or at best indecipherable.

    1. Matunos:
      As a young woman living in downtown Seattle, I would be elated if I could make it to work without being asked for change, or better yet, without crackheads and homeless men whistling at me and asking me to be their "sugar mama." I know it is not a perfect world so I expect some of that behavior, but here it is entirely out of control. This blogger is fed up, I am fed up, my neighbors are fed up, and the mayor continues to think these solicitations are not an issue.

      It is not about not wanting to give/help. I DO give to charities, I donate regularly to Goodwill, I call the cops every time I see suspicious or threatening activity going on, I try and do good things for my community. And it's certainly not as simple as just politely saying no. I have been followed, cursed at, and even spit on for telling a panhandler "no." I don't want to be harassed when I walk through this town anymore! There needs to be some boundaries.

      Where do you live? Maybe I can send all these vagrants to your neighborhood for a week so you can try following your own "easy steps." I'd like to see how level-headed you are after 15 open hands and empty Starbucks cups are shoved in your face every day. I guarantee you, it will make you want to scream.

    2. Mariksa:

      I live in SLU. The vagrants haven't quite made it to hang out around my apartment building yet, but they're pretty close, and I walk by some about every day. I also hang out in Belltown all the time, so I know what it's like there. I've had people follow me for a little ways to try either giving me their story, or chat me up or something, once in a while someone obviously off-balance will curse at me (but so what? they have mental problems, what do I care if they curse at me?). I've never had anyone get actually aggressive toward me when I denied them money. Maybe I've been lucky, or maybe you and I give off different signals.

      I imagine it might be a little more intimidating as a woman walking alone. But have any of these people actually accosted you? Would you be less upset if it were construction workers whistling at you? Do you think these people are going to sexually assault you or does your experience tell you that they're just hooting at you?

      Obviously one must maintain situational awareness. Not everyone is harmless by any means, and the people who are either physically threatening or outright assaulting pedestrians should be arrested. Ideally if they're mentally ill, they should get treatment enough to not be a menace. But again in my experience, the actual menacing vagrants are the minority, and the ones who are actually menacing are groups of young men who are not vagrants, just hoodlums.

      As for someone spitting on you, that's assault. You should call the police (or if you or someone in your party slugged the offending party, I certainly wouldn't criticize you, though you should probably make sure you can defend yourself if you need to). Even if the cops don't do anything by the time they arrive, at least you've made them come out there. Make them file a report so it gets into the crime statistics. Relying on a councilperson to pass legislation based on vague definitions like "aggressive panhandling" is just going to backfire, like it did last year.

      But if you don't do anything but complain on blogs, well, what do you expect to happen? The Mayor to arrive from the skies and beat the derelicts back? Phoenix Jones can only be so many places at once. I don't think Mayor McGinn installed those treatment centers around there. Lobby to have them moved so they're someone else's problem (but good luck with that).

      And for the record, I'm very supportive of greater police presence downtown, *before* 2am. But someone's gotta pay for it. Are you willing to pay more in taxes for more police presence? Let the city council know.

      I don't like the unsightly bums and crackheads on 2nd Avenue any more than anyone else. I'm not saying they should be there. I'm saying when people ask you for money, even if it's in what you interpret as an aggressive manner, be assertive, say no, repeatedly if necessary, and get on with your life.

      "What disturbs men's minds is not events but their judgments on events." -- Epictetus

  4. Matunos:

    You must live on the Eastside.

    1. elise:

      See above. If I lived on the Eastside, I'd just crack some joke about how much downtown sucks.

      But maybe if you guys think downtown sucks so bad, you should try the Eastside. ;-)

  5. Its the Crazy's and thugs wandering around that city that drives me to Carry a 40. Cal Semi auto.

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