Are you in a kind mood today?I've lived in the Portland area for nearly 6 years. In that time I have waited for countless buses. At the park&ride to get to work and at the bus stop downtown to get home. Up until last year, my co-riders and I stood on "the Mall" and were entertained by people-watching and street musicians. Some of the performers were quite good and the music varied from old rock&roll to show tunes (played badly on a trumpet by a guy dressed in a sequined outfit and top-hat!). Some very cool folk music was played on dulcimer and some really awesome bluegrass and Celtic on guitar and banjo and fiddle. I think we even had a mandolin and bodhr once. Bagpipes too.
We had "Statue Man" who mesmerized us with his ability to stand on a small base absolutely frozen in place--until someone gave him some money and then he would break the trance to shake the donor's hand. Occasionally he would juggle clear balls that seemed to defy gravity (our own version of The Illusionist!) to gather an audience. Once he had our attention, he would go back to statue stillness. These folks were our amusement.
The other interesting (and oft times annoying) aspect of the Mall was the panhandlers and sad individuals with "need a job" or "need money to feed my dog" signs. The "beggars" were the hardest to ignore--your generous nature felt for these people and wanted to help but another part of your brain said "this young guy doesn't look unable to work--just begging". "Why can't he go to work for the day rather than beg money from passersby?" Strangely these folks were there--same corner, same sign--daily. It seemed like a "job" to dedicate themselves to being here begging rather than doing anything else to improve their condition. It was never clear what was "right" but something deep in you told you it was a mistake to encourage them to continue this practice. Maybe you just got tired of being pressured and guilted into giving money.
There were homeless people curled sleeping in doorways or walking about the streets with bags of cans to recycle and digging in trash bins to gather more. These people seemed determined to take care of themselves and make their own way. The people you would expect to need instead seemed determined to manage without assistance.
Last year Tri-Met moved nearly all of the bus lines off the Mall for two years of construction to add a new MAX (train) line to downtown and revamp the Mall area. I've wondered about the street performers and panhandlers since then. They didn't appear to move with us but their public must have been reduced drastically with so many riders moved from their corners and streets. We get an occasional harmonica player at our current bus-stop, but these players ride the bus--they aren't street performers (just bored riders).
Today for the first time in over a year, a decently dressed man came up to me and asked "Are you in a kind mood today?" From the question, I assumed he might want directions or a sympathetic ear about his day. Instead, his next question was "Do you have $20 to give me to help with ...?" (the reason was lost in a cacophony of street repair noise down the street). My easy respond (and an honest one) was "I don't carry cash--sorry". He thanked me and went down the street (we do have very polite panhandlers and beggars). I'm not sure why I was selected. Possibly my "turnip truck" face? (as in just fell off) but I couldn't seem to get his "schpiel" off my mind on the way home.
Are you in a kind mood today?