Officer Alex finds philosophy is for the dogs...but it doesn’t stop him.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a birthday party for a friend out of town. (Those last three words, of course, being quite important to this week’s column.)
My buddy’s wife was the subject of the birthday, therefore I was the subject of the buddy while she shopped and smiled and did all those other things guys love to do that involve sitting on a bench while the light of our lives buys an eighth pair of cowboy boots.
While waiting we did all the usual things guys do while the girls did theirs: We looked for flat-screen TVs displaying college football, cool cars (since we were street side), and did not look at fabulous women wearing low-hanging things to offset their very high-cut things while walking in things that accentuated their calf muscles. They were invisible to us, and that’s just science—but the fully restored medium-quasar-blue ’72 Chevelle with the parchment-colored interior at the curb outside was not, and we responded immediately to its location.
The vinyl outside and the interior upholstery were completely redone, and we marveled that there wasn’t a trim piece out of place, right down to the...“HEY BRUTHA!” a vagrant cried out, walking up behind and between us, a smile on his face as broad as the six-lane street in front of us. “HOW ’BOUT YOU HIT ME WITH A ONE?” he requested, referring to a one-dollar bill.
I began to prepare my usual retort to such a request when to my annoyance my pal withdrew his wallet, of all things, and fished out a crisp one-dollar bill. “THANK YA MAN, HEY HOW ABOUT SOMETHING BIGGAH?” the man said (as opposed to a plain “thank you”). “Hey man, you just asked for a one,” Robert said. “No.” The solicitor opened his mouth to retort when I interrupted with a, “GO. Move on. Do it now.” The tone must have struck him as familiar, and he departed.
“The experts themselves will tell you, the best way to help them is to not give them money. People don’t learn to fish if the fish is just handed to them instead,” I said as we walked to another vehicle (Oh my God, a fully restored 1955 Willys pickup!), and he explained that it was just his nature to help. “So feed him,” I said, “but don’t enable him. Hey.” Topic concluded.
Fast forward eight hours later; we were still all together after a healthy car ride back to the hotel where the post-midnight hours would be spent like most 40 years olds’ nights these days (asleep), but I spied a hot-dog cart in the distance, and the name, “Dough Joe’s,” guaranteed a purchase to counterbalance the medicine I’d been drinking most of the evening. (In bars.)
We were approaching to review the toppings when I was flanked by another indigenous person of the greater Nashville metro area, who this time asked, “Hey man, can you buy me a hot dog? I haven’t eaten in two days” (because how could one be expected to find food in downtown Nashville in 48 hours?). My friend raised an eyebrow because I was now put on the spot, given my earlier sage advice. But I did not flinch; I really do feed hungry people without a thought, even when they’re lying to me (though I did immediately regret not packing a gun for the trip out tonight).
“Sure,” I said, and pulled out my wallet. “Can you make it two?” he said. “Sure,” I again replied. “Polish sausage?” he asks. I paused…no street vendor should charge $5 bucks per dog, but he had the market cornered. “Sure.”
So as the dogs are prepped for sale, the guy said, “Hey, how about just giving me some money with that?” as I pulled out a $10—enough for his request, but not mine, mind you—and that’s when I had enough.
“What did you say? You asked for food, I give it to you, you double it and I say ‘OK’, now instead of a thank you you want more? You want my money too? How about this. $%^@ you, I’m eating your damn hot dogs.”
The vagrant sprang into action and snatched one of the dogs now on display while I grabbed the other and he fled down the street.
Robert was laughing. And he was right, because all philosophies are subject to being shit on no matter how well planned or intended. Take care of the disadvantaged. The weak do deserve our charity and protection. But never, ever take it for granted that “weak” means “stupid” or “nice.”
And for the record? Dough Joe’s sucks, despite the clever name.