Dr T and the Dollar

December 9, 2009 at 1:00 pm (Cussed Dumbers)

Part of the fun of working downtown is dealing with the wide variety of people. They don’t just come to where I work; they occupy sidewalk space with their dogs, backpacks, pierced heads and spacebags. (A spacebag is box-wine without the box. They put the bag of wine in a pack or hide it on their person, and fill cans of Arizona Ice Tea for surreptitious street drinking.) As they get drunker and drunker, they also get meaner and more entitled. It grates on the nerves.

Dr T lives downtown. He’s been around, seen a lot. He oversees me at my job, and we all know how adventurous that can be. He works the worst shift, the daytime crowd. Upside: He gets hottie office workers and lunchtime waitresses. Downside: He has to deal with vendors, salespeople and other monetary vampires that only come out in the daytime. (Thank you Sir!) He also gets the dirtbag crowd as they are waking and crawling out from under the bridge. In all he’s a tolerant fellow, but the other day he was driven to extremes by an annoying gutter bum.

Rite-Aid on 6th Avenue has long been a magnet for panhandlers and shoplifters. The store does the best they can, but merchants can’t regulate the sidewalk after a certain point. So they camp a few feet from the door: “Change? Got a cigarette? Are you gonna eat that cheeseburger you’re carrying? Can I finish your soda. Got a cigarette?”


As Dr T came out of Rite-Aid the other day, a particularly whiny fellow asked him for change.

“No, sorry.” Dr T is nicer than I am. (I snap “NO!” and if they push it I get snappier.) He pulled out his pack of Camel Straights, which cost $8.39 a pack at our store.

“Dude, can I have a cigarette?’

“No,” Dr T repeated.

As he fished for a match, Whiny Hiney went into a tirade. “Man, you people have no idea how hard it is to be homeless. I have to sit out here and beg every day just to-…”

Dr T reached into his pocket, pulled out one of his last three dollars, lit it on fire and used it to light his cigarette. He dropped what was left of the burning dollar at the young man’s feet.

As he told me later, “You should have seen the look on that little fucker’s face when that dollar went up. I’ll gladly sacrifice a day’s Top Ramen for a moment like that. It shut him up…” A sly grin washed over his face. “I’d always wanted to do that.”

And now I want to do it too. Next spring, when the “Road Warriors” bring their dust-spewing dog-abusing caravan back to downtown, I may just give it a try…

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