Beggar’s Camp

The median strip at a traffic light is the favorite place for panhandlers. It’s an island in the road where cars have to stop until the light changes. I was at College and Montezuma about a mile from my home where I saw two median islands and each had been claimed.

They set up little campsites with their backpacks and bottles of water and they hold their signs, explaining that they’re short on luck. Some claim to be homeless vets. Some say they’ll work for food, though I doubt that work or food is really what they want. I think they want a cash handout.

Beggars camp

College & Montezuma

My wife is a library manager and that has given her a great knowledge of the homeless and people who panhandle. She was in Pacific Beach a couple of days ago and went to a liquor store to buy a bottle of Tanqueray.

All the big bottles were locked up in cabinets behind the cash register. But right out in front of the register were open bins that were full of small vodka bottles, the kind you get if you order a drink on an airplane. To her practiced eye the message was clear: Go out and panhandle for a couple of hours until you get five bucks then come in here and buy a couple of small ones.

Panhandle is a funny work. I guess it came from a day when beggars would ask for money and hold out a pan, hoping you’d put something in there. But I’ve never seen anyone hold out a pan when they wanted money so I wonder why we say it. Maybe beggar is too impolite.


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