On October 13th 2014 I met a vagrant who’s name is Sean Browne. I never give vagrants money, but I did shake his hand, told him he was awesome … started to walk away but returned to give him a high five. It’s not money but it felt good to contribute that much. I hope it felt good for him too. I don’t know anyone who would want to touch a vagrant, let alone go back to touch them again. Here’s how that came to pass…
I was at Drink! Wine Bar for a meeting with Timmia E. Hearn Feldman, Carol Chibueze, Katherine McEwan, Zeleca Julien and Richie Daly from I Am One; a new NGO that I am working with. Although I was there for business, I will admit that the meeting concluded on a more relaxed tone… especially when a male friend of some of the ladies, who; being a heterosexual, white male, described himself as minority in Trinidad. I chuckled at that because he is probably right. He was the first white male that I have met that fell in that category. He offered to buy us drinks because he supports what I Am One is about. He asked me if I wan’t it Hard or Soft – referring to the drink- and I gave him a look that said I can so say something inappropriately sexual right now. We laughed. This guy seemed cool and because of that, for the purposes of this account I will refer to him as Jake. Yes! That’s his name… Jake from State Farm. He would be a major player in the events that followed.
By this time now, we had broken off into different conversations; Tim and some other ladies were chatting with Jake from State Farm, My back was turned to them as I was rambling on about something to Kate. One of my early life adventures that I probably statused or wrote a note about at one point. So there I was telling my story with full dramatic flair as I have been known to do when a voice, with a hint of melancholy, interrupted.
“Ah doh mean to bother allyuh but…”
I turned around to see a vagrant; a man of african descent, probably in his mid-late 20s / early 30s by my guess, a Chalton Heston’s Moses kinda beard, A dark sexy smooth midnight complexion, a full length denim pants that only looked black because of how dirty it was; which was up by a piece of string which caused it to bundle by his waist. He had no shoes, was bareback and had Greek God kinda abs. Albeit dirty, he was a good looking young fella.
I NEVER give vagrants money. If I have the means to however, I would be more willing to buy them food because I feel they’re more likely inclined to use the money on vices that they do not need and that will keep them where they are… on the streets. As I didn’t have the means at that point to offer food, and I had no intention of giving him a shilling even, I just shook my head in a “Sorry, can’t help you today” kinda way early off when he started. But Jake from State Farm…. nope, He got Loud… and unnecessarily so and cut him off with-
“NO! NO! YOU CAN’T START A CONVERSATION WITH EXCUSE ME I DON’T MEAN TO BOTHER YOU… AND THEN START BOTHERING PEOPLE. GO BACK! GO BACK, TAKE A COUPLE MINUTES THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SAY AND TRY YOUR SALES PITCH AGAIN!!!”
I was instantly irritated! I turned away.. was facing Kate and I just cringed. I think everyone did. Was all that even necessary? You can say no with out making a scene you know. Ugh! The man left and, though it was awkward to get back in conversation at that point, I continued where I left off telling my story to Kate.
A couple minutes later, I hear a different voice.
“Hello, Good Evening, my name is Sean Browne, may I have a moment of your time. Would you all consider giving me $20….”
It was the same guy from before. Speaking in standard english and using an American accent. I wasn’t sure If he was immitating Jake from State Farm (who also had an American Accent) in an effort to impress him, or if he always had it. It was impressive. On one hand it was sad that he actually came back after Jake from State Farm was so nasty with him, but the fact that he actually changed his “sales pitch” and tried a different approach… THIS GUY WAS AWESOME! I battled with the idea of pulling out my phone to record it cause it felt like it could be adding to the shaming process. I asked Timmia, she advised that I shouldn’t for the same reason, and I was good with that. Y’all should have seen it though. Almost everyone was smiling and decided to pitch in to give him a couple dollars. (Well except me.. I was smiling, but I sill won’t give him money.) It was a marvelous sales pitch, I said to Sean OMG YOU ARE AWESOME! I LOVE YOU!!!! I was really very impressed. Somewhere along the line, a guy in a reflective jacket.. community police perhaps, approached the scene on his bicycle, and attempted to run Sean from the area. Zeleca assured him that it’s fine; that he’s not bothering us and that there was no need for aggression. He parked his bike and stood watch menacingly anyway, but at least he let Sean stay. Someone; I can’t remember who, gave the money that was scraped together to Sean, who then looked to Jake from State Farm and asked:
“Will I be getting anything from you kind sir?
This was Jake’s response:
“NO! NO! GO BACK! YOU CAN’T COME AND PITCH SOMETHING WHILE BAREBACK AND WEARING NO SHOES! GO BACK AND CHANGE YOUR APPROACH AND TRY AGAIN!!”
Da fuq?!? Was Jake from State Farm serious?? All this is unnecessary though. My blood was boiling. I was pissed, but not pissed enough to say something yet, but Thankfully, I didn’t have to. Timmia and Carol spoke up and asked Jake from State Farm why was he being like that? I think the word “dickish” was used. *chortle* (dickish I’d be using that :-P) they asked why wouldn’t he give Sean some money because he came back specifically because He asked him to an the whole new ‘sales pitch’ was to impress him… and now he’s sending him back to do it again.
Jake from State Farm: “I’m not going to give him any money cause he’s going to use it to smoke rocks. He’s a crack head”
Tim: “and so what? You’re here drinking Rum! How do you know that anyway?!”
Jake from State Farm: “Well let’s ask him. Hey! Do you smoke rocks?”
Sean: “Yes, I Smoke Rocks”
Jake from State Farm: “See I know a crack head when I see one. Y’all just giving him money to go away.”
One of the other ladies (I can’t remember who) chimed in: “We’re giving him money because we were impressed. He came back ONLY because you asked him to come back.
At this time I noticed that Sean left
Carol: “You’re making him go back and forth -sorry to say this but- like some kinda trained monkey”
Jake from State Farm: “I was never going to give him money in the 1st place. We had that understanding from the start”
Various people: “No that was not the impression you gave. If you’re not going to give him anything why keep telling him to come back?”
Tim: “How dare you sit from your position of power and make him do all of that? It take nothing for you to just give him something but it takes everything for him to keep coming back to try to impress you”
The discourse continued for a while, then Sean came back very upbeat and charismatic. Probably almost like a caricature.
“Hey everybody! I hope you’re enjoying your evening…”
He was trying yet another approach to impress Jake from State Farm. By this time it was humiliating. I felt embarrassed for him. I wanted to hug him. We couldn’t have this guy coming back and forth like this. It is sooo not cool! Carol dipped into her bag and pulled out a $20.. the $20 that Sean asked for earlier and invited him to come for it. Jake from State Farm objected quite vociferously, so I took the $20 went over to Sean myself. I shook his hand, (my mother’s face twisted in horror when I told her that :-P), told him he was awesome once more and gave him the money…. started to walk away but then turned back and gave him a high five. It’s not money but it felt good to contribute that much.. I hope it felt good for him too. Don’t know how many regular people would actually touch a vagrant, far less for shaking their hand and giving them high fives. That being said, I immediately went inside to wash my hands.
When I came back out, Sean was still there. I didn’t really catch the conversation but at some point it was said by one of the ladies
“..but he’s still a person, you don’t know how he got here, who are you to judge.”
Just before Sean left he asked if we could do him a favor… he gave us a number and asked us to call his mother and tell her that we saw her son, and that he’s alright and also to let her know that he says to stop paying for the house, he doesn’t need it. I’m tearing up right now typing it. I took the number and as soon as I credit my phone I will definitely give her a call.
Just throwing it out there to who ever may read… what would you have done in that situation?
UPDATE: I met Sean again, and I did call the number he gave me. I’ll be writing about that soon. Do you see those four horizontal lines to the right? Click it and subscribe to Story of My Life to be notified when a new entry has been published. 🙂