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124/365 – Granola Isn’t Food!
© 2012 Timmy Tamisiea. All rights reserved. Because everyone knows granola bars are just bio-degradble construction bricks.  Duh!

124/365 – Granola Isn’t Food!

After days of writing blog posts about nothing, nothing and more nothing, I finally had something interesting happen.  Well, I wouldn’t say it was the most fantastic thing to ever happen – not as if REM walked in to my place of work and offered me a cupcake.  That would be fantastic.  But, like I said, after days of nothing, even dirty water can taste like Kool-Aid.

Wait, Michael Stipe’s outside right now with a crate of cup cakes? Sweet! Literally!

So, I bring you another installment of

Tails From The Train.  This week’s episode: Granola Isn’t Food.

So, just another day on the Red Line.  Minding my own business, doing my best to ignore the smell of piss and trash – you know, just another day.  After we leave the Belmont stop, I hear the grumbled voice of an older woman demanding that the guy behind me give up his seat so she can sit.

The catch?  There’s dozens of empty seats on the train.  This guy literally stands up and sits down at a seat ACROSS THE ISLE.  What?  Yes, across the isle.  I commend this guy for his patience because I would have pointed to that empty seat effectively telling this woman to sit or jump off the platform.  His face, though, was priceless – he just and this weird smile that said, “All right.  Whatever.  Your world lady.”

There's absolutely no seats on this train!

A few seconds later, I can hear her grumbled, unintelligible voice asking the woman sitting next to her for something.  I don’t know what it is she is saying, I don’t speak Crazy and especially not in her grumbled dialect.  I can tell, though, by the tone of voice the other woman is using that she’s asking for change.

Now, asking for change is not an uncommon occurrence on the train.  It can be unsettling because, unlike on the street, it’s awkward ignoring it.  Try sitting in your seat while some guy mournfully asks for some change for a sandwich.  On the street, you just keep walking.  On a train, you become a member of a collective who all feel awkward as they try to find something to stare at so not to give any eye contact to the beggar.  You look at people with headphones on and suddenly become insanely jealous as they have an excuse to ignore the person.

Unless the guy with the headphones just happens to be the same guy asking for change.

Listen, I’m not some unfeeling prick who hates homeless people.  I am, however, very aware that most people asking for change are not trying to “get a bite to eat.”  They want their next fix.  How do I know that, you may ask.  Oh, there’s always a test, and what I am about to tell you is a story of failing that test.

Homeless people never bring a #2 pencil for their test. Never!

This woman, as soon as she was denied change by the other passenger, immediately got up and started begging other people for change.  I felt bad for the guy who gave up his seat for her – she used it for for all of a minute and moved on.  She’s a seat whore.

Then there's this kind of seat whore.

Well, that grumbled voice went on, forcefully asking for change “for a bite to eat.”  When she finally passed my way, she was . . . normal?  She had on a nice but worn blue coat and a winter cap.  She was not your normal looking homeless person.  But. here’s where everything takes a turn for the worse when it come to us (the passengers) giving her sympathy.  She passed a girl seated by the door and stuffs something into her open bag and asks for some change.  The girl, we’ll call her Red (for her red hair) says (this is what I hear), “Do you want a granola bar?”

The woman says, “No,” and continues down the line begging for change.  Okay.  Sure.  Now it’s clear.  She’s either allergic to gluten or she has no interest in eating.  What becomes painfully clear is just how much this woman has no interest in granola bars.  When Grumbly Voice goes to the next car, Red holds up what looks to be a really tasty Peanut Butter Kashi TLC Granola Bar and says, “Does somebody want their granola bar back?”  What she had actually said to the woman was, “Do you want YOUR granola bar?”

Because everyone knows granola bars are just bio-degradble construction bricks. Duh!

Oh!  Now I get it.  So she was offered a granola bar, she took it and then stuffed it into Red’s bag because what she really wanted was cash . . . for booze . . . or drugs . . . or to buy a private seat on the El.  See, I would gather that anyone who is truly hungry – who is malnourished and hungry – would not turn down a granola bar.  That’s the test . . . no, not a granola bar test.  If a someone on the street asks for change – especially change to buy food – skip the middle man and offer them food instead.  If they reject the food, then they’re lying.

I know this is harsh, but this is the reality of living in an urban area.  You become immune and desensitized to people asking for change because you assume that they don’t want food, they want booze.  I have a friend in Milwaukee who, while in his car, waiting in the drive through line of a McDonalds, was approached by a woman asking for money.  She had a stroller and said,” Sir, my car ran out of gas and I just need ten bucks to get home.  Can you please help?”  My friend, John, felt awful and said, “Oh my god.  Yes, here’s twenty.”  He handed the woman the money and she flipped the baby carriage over and ran away.  He got out of his car to help the poor baby that had fallen out of the carriage.  Except there wasn’t a baby.  John, being the humanitarian, still didn’t realize that he’s been had.

Oh, John, when will you ever learn. Babies aren't balloons.

In light of this depressing fact, let me give you a more enlightened story of homeless giving.  My roommate in college, Dave Lawler, was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.  He was walking down the street with Nolan Beran (my best man) when a homeless man approached and asked for some change.  Dave said, “I don’t have any change.  You want some pizza?”  The man said yes and Dave told him to come along.  The three of them went to, I believe, Papa John’s Pizzeria where Dave asked the man what he wanted to eat.  “A large pizza with pepperoni.”   Dave bought him that pizza.  The man ate it and said, “I sure could use a sausage one.”  Dave replied, “Don’t push your luck.”

There are people who want food and help, but giving them money will never prove if that’s what they really want.  Take the middle man out of the equation and give them the food they des- see if they take it.  You’ll know what they really want.  If I get a chance, I’ll tell you the story of when I did a Dave Lawler in NYC and took a homeless man out for dinner.

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