Monday, February 27, 2006

Land of Liberty

A little over a year ago, after a rough day of subbing, I stopped at a light at a dreary old-suburban intersection. There I saw someone dressed in a Statue of Liberty costume, waving, and holding up a sign for the tax preparation company in the strip mall behind him. "Damn," I though, "at least I am not doing that."

Earlier this winter, I began seeing Lady Liberties at the big, not-that-dreary, intersection near my library. Some days they make me smile -- because I am not that person, nor am I the person I was a year ago, worried that I might be a push away from doing that. I've noted more than one person fills the role, and that at least one -- a woman with out-of-style oversized glasses, who looks like she might have a learning disability -- does it often.

And then one day, the waver was not quite alone. As I came back from a meeting at a bigger library, Liberty again caught me by surprise (Hey! Look! A person in costume at the side of the road!), and then made me think, "Mmph, what a job. Things must be tough for a person to choose to look stupid for money." Not even a city block later, there is another intersection: a stoplight, nothing to the left, and to the right the entrance to a parking lot for some big box stores. At this intersection, facing the people coming out of the parking lot, stood an unkempt man with the torn cardboard sign of a panhandler.

Well, all right, things could be worse for the costumed unfortunate behind me. Or could they? Who's making more money? Who is eligible to be arrested? Is Liberty really working as a temp? Some temps are with agencies long enough to get benefits. A tax preparation company wouldn't pay someone "under the table," right?: she's not in more danger of getting in trouble than the panhandler, is she? No matter which sorry person is worse off, no matter if "sorry" is in my eyes only, I'm taking my taxes elsewhere for professional preparation.

Capital City weather: cold, chance of snow flurries tonight

Reading: Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein. I tell people I'm reading it because it feels like it's time to catch up on some genre reading: SF, then maybe a mystery. Yeah, but, why that one? folks ask. I dunno, it was on my List. Two hundred-and-some pages in, I figure it was on my list as the sort of book that influenced Douglas Adams -- the sort of work he satirizes. Also, Wheaton uses "grok," an important word of the Martian title character, often and must also have cited or described the book at some time. It's good, but very wordy and either deep or "deep." Not the sort adventure I teen boys seem to be looking for when they say they want to read science fiction. Does this mean I need to read some fan fiction, too??


Anonymous said...

Stranger is a great book. One day I might even claim to understand most of it...

Great Cosmic Question: Who has more pride of self, the person who panhandles because he's unwilling to take the humiliating job, or the person who takes an honest (if humiliating) job rather than ask for handouts?

P-Max, gainfully unemployed (but still not working for food)

Georgi said...

Being the social worker that you know I am - I have to intervene in the question above. Put all scenarios of why the person panhandling is unemployed before you answer this question. Is is simply because he chose not to get a job? Or is it the lack of clean clothes, lack of address, and lack of transportation that could have kept him from being successful at an interview. I work with homeless guys all day long. Most of them (99.9%) are thrilled at the chance to get a job and work very hard when they do. Pride is something that is rarely found either place! (Just my 2 cents worth)