Thursday, January 19, 2006

Daughter of Squirrel Change Lady

When I worked at Tower, there was a woman who peddled for change at the bottom of the stairs. She frequently slurred her words together, so "spare some change" came out "squirrel change." At least, that's what she sounded like to me.

I am not a change giver. I rarely, if ever, actually carry change in the first place. I'm a big keeper of my change in my desk or in my spittoon at home. When they finally fill, I take them to the grocery store and exchange all those coins for cash.

I'm not saying I'm without compassion for the plight of the homeless. Far from it. If I have something extra to give, I will give it, but I'll buy you a sandwich. That's just my way.

So, for the last two years that I've worked downtown, I've crossed the same bridge almost every day, on my walk to the train. Almost every day that I walk that bridge, I see the Daughter of Squirrel Change Lady. I call her that because the resemblance is rather uncanny- the same slur into "squirrel change," the same body type, and, of course, same hobby/job/modus operandi, whatever you want to call panhandling.

Two weeks ago, I stayed at work a little late, because I came in late after the Globe's holiday party. As I crossed the bridge, sitting right in the middle, was DoSCL. This time, though, something was different. I initially thought she was hurt, or protecting her ear for some reason, but then I saw what was really going on.

She, who routinely asks people for money because "I'm homeless" or "I'm trying to buy some shoes," was talking on a cell phone.

I shit you not.

While I understand that SBC is unlikely to hook up phone service to someone who presumably doesn't have a phone, this was appalling.

Back to the story- she was talking to a friend. Here's what I overheard:

"I'm downtown, you wanna come downtown tonight?" Pause. "Yeah, we'll go for a drink!" Pause. "Come on in, it'll be fun!" Pause. "Great!" My stomach turned. I felt myself get really mad. Especially since, one time I walked by her, I was on my cell phone, she actually yelled at me for talking on my cell phone.

I suppose the Christian thing to do is to turn the other cheek. I, as you all know, am not Christian. I am, however, subtle. Now, when I walk by her, and she bellows her request for squirrel change at me, I give her the finger. Subtly.


Blogger Postmodern Sass said...

Great title.

There was a big stink in the Toronto newspapers a couple of years ago when it was reported that a well-known bag lady who always sat just outside a particular, very busy, subway station downtown, in fact lived in Oakville (a very upscale suburb) and commuted to her "job" every day in a Volkwagen Jetta.

I think she was arrested, though I'm not sure what she was charged with.

Me, I say, what did she do wrong? She sat on the street and asked for money. You gave it to her.

Most homeless people, at least in Toronto, are a lot smarter than you think. They know where all the shelters are. There is food and a bed for them if they need it. If you give them money, they're going straight to the liquor store with it.

Or, in the case of Toronto's Squirrel Change Lady, laughing all the way to the bank.

3:56 PM  

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