Hobo With an Attitude

Hobo With an Attitude

So, I have no doubt this post will cross some lines and incite some sort of riot….because that’s the kind of power I wield.

But, no matter how you feel about the plight of the homeless, our nation’s Hobos need to learn some manners.

I will be using the term “Hobo” here because I love that word and it is much more interesting than “homeless person” which could be anyone who overspent on a suburban tract home circa 2008. “Hobo” makes me think of JD Salinger and the Joad family. It’s nobler than the morons who bought McMansions and jet skis when it was fairly clear to everyone except them that they shouldn’t.

So, Hobo it is.

I am always very conflicted about what to do when someone asks me for money – someone other than an immediate family member that is, who I always say “no” to.

I am all about helping others out but am I really helping in any way that is substantial? Isn’t it really just about helping me assuage some of my middle-class guilt? (And, no, I did not use a thesaurus for “assuage” though I did need to look up the spelling.)

Not that the Hobos give a shit what my motives are, I’m sure.

We have a fair number of Hobos in Santa Barbara and you tend to see the same ones over and over again since it’s a small town. We started to refer to them by their Hobo names.

Look, there is camouflage Hobo.

Indian Hobo got a haircut. Good for him.

Stink-eye Hobo is on a new block this week.

Is that Hobo Andrew Weil or actual Andrew Weil?

At any rate, the other day I was walking down the street after a trip to the Farmer’s Market with a Whole Foods bag full of vegetables. (I think this is actually the definition of white middle-class. Go look it up.)  I passed by one of the regulars outside a drugstore with a placard that read “Anything Will Help.” I decided I probably had plenty more veggies than I needed so stopped and pulled out a few carrots to give him.

I handed them to him with a big “aren’t I just the best person?” smile. He took one look at the carrots and started to shake them at me accusingly, screaming “What the hell am I supposed to do with these?”

I was so shocked at being yelled at in public I didn’t quite know what to do.

“…eat them?” I squeaked.

“I don’t have any teeth, you idiot!” He screamed. And, I did, indeed feel like an idiot.

Though, in all fairness, I’m pretty sure that my middle-class guilt handbook does not have anything about having access to all Hobo Dental Records and acting with the appropriate level of sensitivity to that.

Rather than look for any soft foods I may have in my bag, thereby, undoubtedly throwing gas on his indignant fire, I backed away and walked swiftly down the street and away from the Hobo shrieking at me.

If I could go back I’d probably tell him to stop his screeching and update his sign. If “anything would help” then he has to be prepared to take anything. It’s simply a matter of setting expectations. But, something tells me that conversation would not go down in reality the way it does in my head.

I am now ever vigilant to avoid that drugstore and I Hate Carrots Hobo. And, I will only offer soft foods moving forward. Of course, I still run the risk of giving bread to Gluten-free Hobo or spicy food to GERD Hobo.

It’s a jungle out there.

Drew’s hobo art. I’m so proud.

14 Responses »

  1. Wonderful story! I’ve encountered nasty hobos before – it’s damn scary. A few years back, during a scorching summer’s day, I offered my untouched Sprite to a old lady hobo sitting on a filthy NYC subway platform floor. I imagined she would be so grateful & delighted to have a cold drink. Nope. She yelled at me that she doesn’t drink Sprite, just Coke. Although I can absolutely appreciate that, being a tremendous Coke fan, I’d like to think when I’m homeless one day I won’t be a nasty bitch.

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  4. Just found your blog. Freaking love it. I have not cackled my big ass off so much over one blog post before. I even delved into the depths of past posts (my favorite thus far being the one about the runners) as well with intent to continue. Loving it. You’re hilarious.

  5. Hobos of yore, sigh*

    Remember when ridin’ the rails meant something?

    Why, if you had bestowed Mr. Bojangles with some excellent organic carrots, he would have bent a gracious bow followed by a little soft shuffle…old school.

    Woody G. might be grave-rolling as we speak. You know he would have written a banjo song and fed a family with those suckers.

    On the bright side, you got a kick-ass story out of it. Bravo–I love your blog! Keep writing more funny, it’s a blast to read.

  6. I give Clif Bars to the Regular Hobos outside my post office. They’re usually really nice. Occasionally the Drunk Rowdy Hobos come over to pester the office customers, which ticks off the Regular Hobos because the Drunk Rowdy Hobos scare everyone away. Jerks. I kind of want to adopt my favorite Regular Hobo, an older man with long hair and a sad expression who always opens the door for me. But I’m pretty sure I’d need some kind of Hobo adoption training or certification. Otherwise, like you, I’m sure I’d end up doing more harm than good. It makes me sad, but I don’t know what else to do. I’ve started keeping dollar bills on me to buy the Hobo newspaper that many of them sell (legitimately) – some of them earn relatively decent money doing that. I should look into what more I can do – thanks for the prod!

  7. Hobo protocol is difficult, no doubt. I always give some change because of guilt, and because even though my spouse and I are scraping the change jar for groceries, we still have a roof over our heads, fuzzy animals to love, and lots of good family and friends. And, when my spouse was in grade school, he had to write a little paper on what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wanted to be a hobo. Parent, teacher, principle conference. Sheesh. He wanted to “ride the rails”. Not exactly crazy talk.

  8. Most of the hobos in my neighborhood we refer to as “alcoholic” hobo. Although a few are “smelly” hobo.
    And that’s not being classist. Both my husband and I briefly considered the hobo lifestyle. I would have liked to be called “Friendly Hobo.”

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