Hey homeless guy: I’ll give you money if you DON’T pee in front of me next time!

On Saturday, while I was doing my part to help stimulate the economy (aka shopping for crap I don’t need), I saw a homeless man on Rockville Pike.

Which is really sad.

And because I’m a sucker and tend to feel enormous guilt when I’m driving past homeless people in my little red sports car while I’m out shopping for stuff like texting gloves and the ONE shade of Stila eyeshadow that I don’t have yet, I usually give homeless people a dollar or two.

Which means that when I drive up to a corner, homeless people flock to me like a scene out of The Birds.

Or like that South Park episode about homeless people. Well played South Park, well played.

But the guy I saw Saturday did not get any of my hard-earned (though usually spent on ridiculous purchases) money.

Because he was too busy peeing on Rockville Pike to be focused on his panhandling.

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Well okay, I could. Because I’m a writer. But I didn’t. He was actually peeing.

I mean, okay, I guess when you’re homeless, the world is your toilet.

But it’s also your bed and your dining room. And I feel like you shouldn’t pee in either of those places.

I guess the point of what I’m saying is that even homeless people should follow certain etiquette rules. In fact, they probably should follow them more strictly than non-homeless people, because homeless people, like Blanche Dubois, have always depended on the kindness of strangers. (How many of you just read that sentence in a southern accent because I threw the Blanche Dubois reference in there?)

Of course, homeless etiquette differs vastly from non-homeless etiquette. But because I’m the sap who usually DOES shell out money to them, I feel it’s my duty to create the etiquette guide for homeless behavior. So here goes.

Homeless etiquette rule #1: Look the part. I mean, honestly, if you’ve got a sign that says you’re a homeless veteran who’s supporting six kids and you’re wearing a Rolex, I’m not all that sympathetic. But if your watch is drawn on with a magic marker, I’ll stop to give you money.

Rule #2: Don’t let racism get in the way of your panhandling. This one is a true story—my mother stopped to give a man a dollar one time and he asked her if she was Hispanic. My mother (who is of Russian Jewish descent) said, “What if I am?” And the man shook his head and gave her back her money in distaste. I mean really dude? No wonder you’re homeless!

Rule #3: Don’t lecture the person who’s giving you money. Another true story—I stopped and gave a man a dollar one day. He asked if I had accepted Jesus as my personal lord and savior. I said no, I’m Jewish (and thought about telling him that I was on my way to Lord and Taylor because I love shopping, but thought that might be in bad taste). And unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was stopped at the world’s longest traffic light. Because I got a 12-minute lecture on the importance of accepting Jesus and being saved.

At which point, I asked for my dollar back.

(Not really. But I wanted to. And I’ve seen him since then and just keep my eyes straight ahead and my windows rolled up if I’m stopped at a light near him. I don’t need the Jesus lecture AGAIN.)

Rule #4: Have a sense of humor. I know, I know, you’re homeless. It’s not funny. People shouldn’t laugh at your misfortune. But think of it this way: if you make someone laugh, you’re not panhandling, you’re entertaining! And there’s far less shame in busking than there is in begging.

My two favorite examples of this were both spotted in Venice Beach. One was a man who was peacefully sitting on a blanket with a hat out next to a sign that just read “F*** You” (minus the asterisks, of course). And that guy had more money in that hat than I had in my wallet. (Which isn’t surprising because we’d already passed several homeless people and they were trailing behind me like baby ducks hoping I’d throw them another crumb at that point.) But the sign made me laugh. So he got a dollar.

My other favorite example was spotted in Venice Beach when I went to visit my brother for Thanksgiving this year. A man was walking around singing a song he’d written. I mean, it wasn’t exactly going to win a Grammy, but it was catchy and funny, so I’m pretty sure he was raking in the dough. The lyrics? “Jingle bells, jingle bells, help me get drunk,” repeated over and over all day. Honestly, I kind of wanted to go buy him a fifth and be like, Merry Christmas.

Rule #5: Don’t pee on the freaking road and then expect people to hand you money! I mean, come on! I’m not giving you cash if you give my car THAT kind of a car wash! Hand sanitizer? Sure. Money? HELL no.

Following these simple rules will make homelessness far more pleasant in this country.

Wait. Most homeless people probably don’t have internet access and therefore aren’t going to see these rules.

Crap.

Oh well.

In that case, here are some of my favorite homeless signs from Google images… enjoy!

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Only two things can stop Christmas from starting too early: Cthulhu and Festivus

Halloween is over. Which can only mean one thing.

Cheap candy.

Okay, it means two things. Cheap candy and the start of the Christmas season.

Remember back in the day when Christmas season didn’t start until after Thanksgiving? Well if 40 is the new 30 and gray is the new black, I guess Halloween is the new Thanksgiving. Because somehow it’s Christmas already.

I know what you’re thinking. “Sara, stop being such a Grinch just because you’re Jewish.”

It has nothing to do with being Jewish. And I think the Grinch is a totally racist character. He hates Christmas and is the color of money? Dr. Seuss was really an anti-Semitic bastard!

Although, we should have known that already. One of his most famous books is extolling the virtues of ham. And in the end, the anti-pork character decides that he LOVES ham and stops eating kosher. Anti-Jewish propaganda much?

(Not really. Dr. Seuss was actually VERY outspoken against the Nazis during World War II. Big friend to the Jews, despite being of German ancestry.)

I don’t actually mind Christmas. Red is my favorite color. And I like going to the movies. I’m not a HUGE Chinese food fan, but that’s okay, because my family tends to go out for Indian food or sushi on Christmas these days. And I like presents, no matter what the occasion. I’m also a big fan of any event that causes sales. I’m even okay with Christmas taking up an entire month. I don’t LOVE it, but I’ve learned to accept it.

I’m not okay with it starting the second Halloween ends.

Not cool people, not cool.

My newspaper kids have already started playing Christmas music at school. Granted, they’re smart about it, because they know that I’ll tolerate Springsteen’s Christmas songs MUCH longer than any other holiday music.  But if I hear Mariah Carey doing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” one more freaking time, I’m going to lose it. And it’s only November 5th!

I blame Thanksgiving for the expansion of Christmas. Back in the day, a holiday based on eating massive quantities with your family was a big enough event to hold Christmas at bay until the very end of November. But now that everyone is so obsessed with eating right and avoiding obesity, Thanksgiving seems to have lost some of its power as a holiday.

Think about it. Even though a lot of people say it’s their favorite holiday, it’s like trying to hold off Christmas with Flag Day. It’s just not strong enough to keep Christmas in its place. Halloween does a good job of preventing Christmas from creeping into October because picking out a costume takes a lot of time and effort. If not for Halloween, I’m pretty sure people would be leaving Christmas lights up year round and we’d have Santa and Rudolph-themed bathing suits and beach towels by now.

Maybe I would feel differently if Christmas meant more to me than movies and Asian cuisine. Because Hanukkah isn’t much of a holiday. It’s kinda like the Jewish equivalent of the 4th of July.  It’s a holiday built around the idea of getting together with people you care about, eating fried food, and lighting stuff on fire to commemorate a military victory. There’s no reason for the presents other than to keep Jewish kids from feeling left out. But even though we love the presents, it’s not possible to get as into Hanukkah as it is Christmas.

But I have a couple of ideas about how to keep Christmas from creeping further and further into the rest of the year. (It’s like the boiler in the Shining. It creeps. Please tell me SOMEONE reading this—other than my parents—knows what I’m talking about! Please. Leave me a comment or email me if you get the joke. It’ll make me very happy. Even if I don’t know you. Just let me know you’re alive out there, okay?)

Idea #1: we bulk up Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is like a dyke with a hole in it (I mean the Holland kind of dyke! Get your minds out of the gutter). If you can plug the hole, it’ll hold the flood waters back. But otherwise, we’re screwed. So we need to make Thanksgiving a stronger holiday. There are several ways to do this. We could go the Easter route and come up with super random mascots for the holiday. Like the Thanksgiving duck-billed platypus. He brings baby snakes and Ugg boots to good little children. (Hey, it’s no more random than a bunny bringing eggs for Easter!)

We could also incorporate a fear angle into it. Celebrate Thanksgiving just right or a horrible, evil creature will come and destroy mankind. I’d like to suggest the Dark and Mighty Cthulhu (thank you South Park).

If people had to worry about Cthulhu coming to destroy the Earth, you’d better believe they’d would leave Christmas alone until Thanksgiving was over! Praise the Dark Cthulhu, long may he reign!

But for those of you purists out there who want to keep Thanksgiving as a non-religious or fear-based holiday (which, to be honest, it shouldn’t be. It wasn’t a happy occasion for the Native Americans. The pilgrims came bearing the gift of smallpox. What crappy houseguests!), there’s another answer: we need a new holiday between Halloween and Christmas.

Yes.

It’s time to make Festivus official.

Now, in MY family, we already incorporate parts of Festivus into Thanksgiving. We certainly have the Airing of Grievances (usually aimed at me, because my brother, as a doctor, is considered a god in our family). But if we had to get the pole and focus on the Feats of Strength, I think we MIGHT just be able to keep Christmas in December where it belongs. Think about it. We could have Festivus decorations and Festivus songs and Festivus presents. And as a non-denominational holiday, Festivus for the rest of us can REALLY bring the American people together to fight off Christmas creeping.

Who’s with me?

(By the way, you shouldn’t take this post in any way, shape, or form as an indication that I don’t want Christmas presents. I do. I’ll post a list of things I want soon to help you out. But great presents for me fall mostly into three categories: cash, shoes (size 8 1/2), and sparkly things. You should probably start shopping now. All the cool kids are doing it.)