Monday, May 09, 2011

9 MAY 11: Hi Stranger, Send Money

It's graduation day at both Columbus State and Auburn University. In a surprise, Auburn's ceremony has moved outdoors this year to Jordan-Hare Stadium. C.S.U.'s spring commencement is tonight at the Civic Center. Either this event has become too big for the Lumpkin Center, or C.S.U. doesn't want anyone to miss the Cougar baseball team playing at Golden Park.

BLOGGER BEGGARS 3-4: Schwob Memorial Library sits in the middle of the Columbus State campus. As I sat on a bench outside the library the other day waiting to see someone, two young women who seemed to be students spotted me. No, they did NOT mistake me for a literature professor.

"Can I have a quarter, so I can get something to drink?" one of the women asked. They start training beggars at an early age around here....

The "beggar bags" which I'd normally offer at times like this were a long way from the Columbus State library. My car was at the usual place where I park for C.S.U. visits - the far northwest lot, near the Cunningham Center and soccer complex. There's never a problem finding an open spot there, and you don't need a new recreation center to get exercise walking.

I decided this was too long a walk to require of these women - and besides, the person in need told me she had the rest of the money for a soda. This would be one time when I'd hand over a quarter. After all, she might already have student loan debt up to her eyeballs.

The woman apparently had in mind a soda vending machine at the Schwob Memorial Library entryway - but I escorted her all the way inside, to the corner with Einstein Bros. Bagels. I knew it was there, after spending a few minutes earlier browsing around. The woman didn't seem to realize it was there - so perhaps she was a physical education major.

A cooler with all kinds of soda bottles sits next to the Einstein Bros. Bagels cash register at the C.S.U. Library. This is amazing to me, because food and drink were not allowed in libraries when I attended college. You might damage valuable and historic books and newspapers. But of course, this was way back when people read hardbound books and real newspapers.

The two young women quietly stared at the soda cooler for a long time. Then one explained to the beggar, "He's waiting for you to make a selection." At least she didn't accuse me of trying to make her obese.

With that matter settled, the beggar selected her soda - and sure enough, she had all but a quarter to pay for it. The worker at the Einstein Bros. Bagels cash register gave me credit for being generous. I didn't get credit for a free bagel, but I'm dealing with that....

The young women went on their way, not needing anything more. The person I went to see at Columbus State never showed up - but I wound up paying 25 cents for the trip, anyway. It could have been worse, I suppose. Plenty of college campuses make you pay to park.

That woman actually was the second encounter with a beggar I had in a three-day span. The earlier one occurred while I walked from the Mildred Terry Library toward home. I probably asked for trouble by traveling down Sixth Street, in front of Little Joe's Package Store. But this was at 11:45 a.m. - while the big crowd usually gathers 12 hours later.

"Do you have any change to spare?" a man standing outside Little Joe's asked. Like the young woman, he also wanted to "get a soda." As if Little Joe's had superior brands and value over Circle K a couple of blocks away....

I prepared for this walk by making sure NOT to carry a wallet. The library card I needed for my task was in a carrying case. That approach worked last summer outside Fourth Street Baptist Church [6 Sep 10] - but churches only tempt people to give money a couple of times each week.

So I explained to the man I had no money on me - and dared to explain it was because I might meet "beggars like you."

"I'm not begging. I'm asking," the man answered Maybe he's read the new city ordinance on panhandling better than I have.

"What's the difference?" I asked. I don't recall the man's complete answer as I write this, but the asking part had to do with the old phrase, "Ask and you shall receive." Not if you annoy total strangers in the process, you won't....

As the discussion continued, I suddenly realized something. I had a little loose change in my shorts pocket all along - so indeed I was carrying money. At that point, I should have disqualified myself for misspeaking and handed the money over. Come to think of it, that example might have set an even better example for this man.

Instead, I explained I lived a short walk from Little Joe's. But the man didn't accept my offer to walk a few blocks for a free beverage. After all, someone else might have been waiting behind a building to take his spot.

"You'll see me again," the man said as I started to walk away. In this neighborhood, it wouldn't be surprising. Some parts of Columbus have the "old money" - while this one seems to have the old poverty.

We received one e-mail Sunday. But it is of Sunday Soapbox length, so we'll hold it for a few days. In the meantime, let's check the weekend news....

+ WRBL brought back late Saturday night newscasts, but in a strange way. An apparently-taped weather update was followed by "The Benning Report," which normally is seen only on cable. I assume this was shown at bars on Broadway, as part of the effort to keep soldiers focused and safe.

+ Columbus Police reported a fight at 4:00 a.m. led to about a dozen gunshots outside the Checkers restaurant on Wynnton Road. This is why Checkers needs to add indoor dining - because the odds of producing a viral video would be much better.

+ The annual "Scott's Ride for Miracles" fundraiser began from The Medical Center. A team of local motorcyclists is traveling around the country for three weeks, and this year sharing "helmet-cam" video from the road. About all that's missing is a ballad by Simon and Garfunkel.

+ The national radio program "Sports Byline USA" originated from Fort Benning. This was surprising, because I thought that program shut down years ago due to the rise of 24-hour sports networks. The people in this area who can hear Sports Byline may be the Fort Benning communications specialists.

+ The Columbus Lions filleted Fayetteville 81-32. There have been questions recently about whether Fayetteville's franchise might go out of business. Certainly the Force could have saved some money on bus fuel this weekend, by not making the trip south.

+ The Atlanta Hawks tied their pro basketball playoff series with Chicago, by taking the fourth game 100-88. Josh Smith of Atlanta had a big night - with 23 points, 16 rebounds and only a couple of scoldings from radio announcer Steve Holman.

+ Instant Message to the Ledger-Enquirer: Sigh - I guess you win again. I mentioned the error in the "Columbus Parks and Rec" sign at Golden Park last spring [19 May 10], and nothing was done for almost a year. You mentioned it in "Chattahoochee Chatter," and it was fixed within days. Some people really DO still read newspapers.

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