I recently wrote blog about a girl panhandler on the Rome metro. Her technique and style was so honed I figured I had seen the best Italy had to offer in the world of panhandling
Every once in a great while someone or thing comes along and revolutionizes a field. We call them game changers. The forward pass in football. The windows graphic user interface in computing, the juice box in beverage containment.
I think I witnessed the new standard of panhandling. It was like seeing Nirvana at a bar in Seattle in 1991 and instantly knowing that change is a comin’. A guy got on the metro reeking like fried dog pooh. Or at least what I imagine fried dog pooh would smell like. He had a low growl and was agape with very little in the way of saliva control. He then mumbled some garble. I’m sure even the native Italian speakers could not make out every word but we all got the gist. Then, he took out a harmonica and simply blew in and out as if it was a kazoo. After gracing us with the smell, speech and harmonica recital he produced a collection cup. It was either the funniest or saddest thing, depending on your level of cynicism. I don’t think myself a cynic but I must to say I was squarely on team funny.
Here’s the genius, some people pay because they feel sorry, others pay in hopes the donation will encourage him to leave their vicinity.
As if that wasn’t entertaining enough another panhandler was also on the metro. An older man with an accordion. The accordion was spread open and ready to play when Grunt boy went into action. The accordion player, knowing he was bested, closed his accordion, put away his cup and got off the train. My guess is he went and got a job. Like a champion boxer who fights one fight too many I think he realized his time had passed. That, or he got off fuming at the utter lack of decency displayed by the harmonica blower… In my day there was a code to begging….
I figure the authenticity of the young begger was a 50/50 call. I chose to think it was a put on. I had so many questions for him: why the harmonica, do you have to wait 3 days to get funky or have you somehow infused the funk into your outfit, where can I get the best low-priced pizza…
Now we need to get the girl and harmonica dude on the same train for a beg off. Get the pay-per-view people on the phone.