Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Squeegee poet

I spotted him as I walked out of Walgreens. Neither very old or very young, short hair, black, and perched on a bicycle, he had that appraising, watchful look you see in people who are about to ask you for spare change. Would he? The guy didn't seem raggedy enough to need it.

He approached and gave me his pitch. Turns out he was selling poetry. He'd run off copies of some verses he'd written, and he was taking donations for them.

OK, that was kind of cool. A novel approach to panhandling or marketing or possibly both.

He pulled out one of the poems, entitled "Joy," and began reciting.

I can't remember any of it verbatim. Something along the lines of, "Joy is the opposite of pain / (something something something) rain." Basically a greeting card, only longer and more simplistic.

So I had two choices. Give the guy a dollar to make him feel good about his bad rhyming poetry, or be an asshole and say no.

I'm an asshole. I made declining noises. He ignored them and pulled out another poem. I had to cut in before he started reciting again. After more polite declining noises from me, he asked if I'd like to make a contribution. I shook my head.

He kind of pulled into himself, looked downward, and didn't say anything else.

Part of me felt guilty. The compassionate and human thing would have been to ignore the quality of his work. Maybe he really needed that money. Even if not, it hurts when someone rejects your heartfelt creative efforts. I know how it is.

The other part of me was irritated. I hawk Cinder Bridge music at every gig we play. Most people pass. I don't give them guilt trips when they do.

Wonder what would have happened if I'd offered to exchange our CD for his poems.


David Powell said...

I think I'd have given him some change, if only because I would have found it refreshing that he was offering something in exchange (even if it was awful poetry).

I see your point, too, though. I'm not sure there's an empirically right thing to do there.

Fireblossom said...

Bad poetry is everywhere. Bad poets should be rounded up, bludgeoned about the head and body, then trucked to a remote location and tattooed with the words "DO NOT GIVE THIS PERSON ANYTHING TO WRITE WITH" across their foreheads. Just sayin'.

cinderkeys said...


I was primed to give him something. I think I would have paid up if his attitude had been different. He was nice, but he was pushy. If you're going to get up in my face and manipulate me into pretending I like your poetry enough for a cash donation, your poetry had better be at least mediocre.

Coincidentally, I met up with an actual squeegee guy in the Safeway parking lot tonight. I was in a huge hurry, too much so to wait for him to wash the windows or to go in and buy him some food. When I apologetically told him this, he was very gracious. "Thanks anyway, God bless." By the time I realized I wanted to just give him some damn change for being so nice, he had already made his way across the lot. Bah.

Jannie Funster said...

He's got an interesting angle, that's for sure. :)