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‘Excuse me, sir’ means no more Mr. Nice Guy


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After four encounters in four days I have become really, really resentful of panhandlers.

It’s gotten to the point where someone coming up and saying “Excuse me, sir” raises my hackles — and if you’ve ever had your hackles raised, you know how annoying that can be. They could be saying “Excuse me, sir” to tell me I’m about to step off the curb in front of a bus, and it wouldn’t matter. I’ve been Excuse Me Sir-ed so many times by people trying to wheedle money out of me that the reaction is now automatic. And it ain’t pretty.

 

Which gets me back to the past four days.

Two times, from different people, I heard “Excuse me, sir” followed by a quick story about needing money for gas to get to Anderson for the funeral of an aunt. How poor Anderson got dragged into this I’ll never know, but I do find it interesting that the Panhandler Guidebook evidently says it is preferable to Muncie or Marion. I guess Peru and Kokomo are out of the question, too.

I find it interesting that it’s an aunt’s funeral that the handler of pans has to get to and not an uncle’s. I guess maybe the theory is that aunts are more likely to arouse sympathy. They obviously never met my aunts.

(Just kidding, Aunt Sharon. Also Aunt Margaret, Aunt Mildred, Aunt Nelta, Aunt Susie, Aunt Betty, Aunt Mary and all the others.)

Another guy (they were all guys this time, although I have heard the aunt’s funeral story from women, too) told me he just needed a little help getting back on his feet. I might have found his story a little more plausible had he not been coming out of the grocery store with a bag of stuff.

In each case I responded with something of a snarl, I’m afraid. More about that in a minute. First I have to mention the fellow who came to the front door offering ridiculously overpriced magazine subscriptions as part of a youth development ripoff — I mean program, which he said would keep him from becoming a statistic.

I told him it was too late for that, but I don’t think he understood. I asked where he lived, and he said Sacramento. I told him I prefer local scams, but he didn’t understand that, either.

He did understand when I told him it was now officially time to leave. The dog barking from the living room helped, although just between us, the dog was probably barking at a squirrel. He feels about squirrels as I do about panhandlers.

Which is, simply: I hate dealing with them because (getting back to the snarl), as they have gotten more aggressive, it has required me to be something my daughter calls an A-word, and I don’t like being an A-word. I want to be a nice guy, but I feel they have forced me, through years and years of this nonsense, the other direction. And I resent it.

So if it looks like I’m about to step off the curb in front of a bus, don’t say “Excuse me, sir.” I won’t like it. Of course, I won’t like being hit by the bus, either. I know what. Just say “Look out, A-word!” I’ll probably get hit, but at least I won’t think you’re panhandling.

Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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