Thursday, April 01, 2010

Comedy is tragedy + time. Even just a few seconds.

Okay. This is about the funniest thing I ever encountered on the street in New York City. Thing is, whether you laugh or not tells you a little something about my sense of humor (and me a little about yours) but so be it. Here we go.

I’m walking from Borders Book Store in Columbus Circle toward Port Authority, straight down 8th Avenue at about 9:15 pm on Wednesday night. (Yes. I missed the 8:30 Bieber Bus and was stuck with the 10. Super.) The street, as always, is teeming with pedestrians and onlookers, some looking for something quite specific as it turns out.

In front of a store, I encountered a young man, apparently down on his luck, asking everyone who passed by for some spare change. That’s sad and troubling, but not all that uncommon in midtown, especially around Times Square. But here’s what struck me as unusual, and ultimately very, very funny. He shook his cup, and asked: “Spare some change so I can buy some Chinese food?”

I took a few steps past him and thought: Wait. Chinese food? So you could buy Chinese food? It’s not enough for him to ask, “Spare some change for dinner?” Or, “Spare some change so I can eat tonight?” Or even, “Spare some change (for reasons I won’t go into in great detail about right now?)”

Then again, you have to give him points for specificity. But if you’re going that far, go all the way: “Spare some change so I can buy some General Tso’s Chicken and an egg roll?” “Spare some change so I can get a plate of dim sum?”

What if I handed over my spare change and said, “I’m only giving this to you so you can go pick up a Gyro or a slice of pizza.” Would he hand it back?

Yes. I know. Being hungry and on the street isn’t funny but I’m so sorry; this is, right?

Not to mention, what I really wanted to say was, “Chinese food? Really? You’ll just be hungry again in an hour.”



Sara said...

When I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I passed a scruffy young man sitting on the sidewalk with a big sign: Spare change for marijuana?

renee said...

Sara - that is hilarious! A friend of mine - who lives in NYC - told me he's been hearing more and more specifics from people hoping for a handout from passers-by.

There must be some kind of underground focus group study going around on behalf of those in need that tells them: "Be specific. People will respond better to specifics."

Otherwise, this makes no sense!

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

A long while ago, Garrison Keillor said he passed by a young African American in NYC panhandling with a cup, saying very seriously, "American Negro Pizza Fund..."

renee said...

Thanks for the contribution, anon! I hadn't heard that but again, you have to give points for creativity.

My friend Jaime told me about a guy in Florida with a sign indicating all contributions would go toward his beer.

Not exactly a straight line to the responsible life but honest, right?

Thanks again -