Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Panhandling – c. 2010

Most weekends at my local Walmart store a variety of panhandlers are stationed at both doors asking for handouts.  Going in, I have things on my mind and coming out my arms are usually full.  My patience with these things is relatively low.  However, I usually give at Christmas and to the veterans when they’re outside the doors on Memorial and Veterans’ Days.

In my area the panhandling seems to be orchestrated and controlled by the store to provide a reasonably benign crowd at the doors and rarely are the panhandlers particularly aggressive.  I am a bit nonplussed over how to deal with the little kiddies who are thrown out there by their parents.  I never quite know what they’re collecting for, nor do the kiddies.  But it’s usually funds for a softball trip or sports equipment or something like that.  Is my memory bad, or did parents usually handle those expenses in our day?

It was a glorious morning a couple of days ago and I got out early to get my errands done.  As luck would have it, I had my camera with me.  Going in the store at 10:00 AM, there were no moppets stationed at the door, but coming out at 10:30 AM, there they were…cute, very young, and highly energetic.  My arms were full so the moppets pulled up dry and visibly disappointed--they had just started their shift.  I never knew why they wanted money.

Getting to Walmart early often provides the added benefit of getting a good parking spot near the front and so it did that day.  Then I started into a slow burn…if an old fart like me can get up early enough to go in at 10:00 AM, why couldn’t this well-groomed, young mommy get her own tail up and out the door at least as early.  Maybe she wasn’t too serious about the project herself; clearly, even 10:00 AM was too early for her program—am I being too critical?

There wasn’t much traffic in and out that morning…I think it was a weekday and much of the foot traffic consisted of various vendors reporting in to load their shelves—of course, the moppets attacked them too, sometimes in both directions.  Mommy appeared to have her little ice chest to cool her bottled water, a cell phone to make those important calls, and some extra buckets for the moppets’ use in emptying their loot.

She had staked out a shady spot off to one side for herself, set up a card table, and was clearly prepared to manage the moppet money flow in comfort.  I took a few pictures since this was one of those minor irritations that, although common, is to my mind, indicative of a shift in our societal mindset within the next generations.  Things like this irritate me, but only a little bit.

On the other hand, preying on the generous nature of people without explaining the project is a somewhat new wrinkle and is likely to produce several hundred dollars over the course of a day…not a bad day’s return and low-cost labor to boot!


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