Yesterday on my way home I sat at an intersection not far from the Lee bridge, waiting for the light to change. There was a young man at the intersection holding up a sign. Richmond is a car-centric place. It makes me feel a bit like a Jersey commuter whose only interaction with homeless people is when they squeegee the car window while they're waiting to go through the tunnel. In the past I spent a lot of time on public transportation (I was reminded about the hijinx that can then ensue recently through a post by meanlouise. Reading that made me go back here and do a search on the word bus. I used to talk about the bus a lot. Cue hijinx.) Now I spend way too much time in the car.
Anyhoodle, the young man was at this intersection holding up a sign asking for financial assistance. There is a fair amount of this-- people at intersections holding up signs-- in Richmond. Not only is the public transportation here laughable, but also, no one walks. I mean no. one. walks. When I walk to the post office seven blocks away it causes confusion and bafflement. Seven blocks. So if you were going to set up shop the New York model (can/cup with change, ride subway or stand on corner where passersby might drop some change in) just isn't going to work. Hence, the standing at intersections with a sign declaring one's need.
Interestingly, the intersection sitters are by and large looking to be in pretty good shape. I mean mostly looking reasonably healthy (there are two intersections I pass often that are regularly haunted by couples that appear to have substance abuse issues, so it isn't the rule), clean, and pretty well dressed. I don't know if this is indicative of the economic downturn (i.e. people who had steady work in the past and suddenly find themselves forced to ask for change on the corner), or something about Richmond, or what. The young man yesterday at the corner where I was waiting for the light was tall, strapping, in his early twenties, and well dressed. I mean Tommy Hilfiger well dressed. Sparkling clean Tommy Hilfiger well dressed. Which seemed notable for someone asking for change.
But it was his sign that got me. I've seen some interesting signs here. I should start writing them down when I see them, because I always forget the wording later. Some are really specific (need bus fare to Ohio-- can you help?), some are perhaps too honest (need money for beer), but this one was kind of brilliantly vague. Here was a healthy young man, well dressed on the corner, holding a sign that said:
Can you help me out with my situation
There was no punctuation, so it wasn't entirely a question. But it left a question in my mind. What, exactly, is your "situation"? Is it your abs? Your employment? Your desire for beer? What? I have been pondering this ever since.