I’m walking down 49th Street when my stomach starts rumbling. Actually it’s screaming. I haven’t eaten breakfast and my blood sugar’s in the cellar. If I don’t get something into my gut soon I’ll pass out. Luckily for my stomach, but unfortunately for my cholesterol levels, a hotdog stand suddenly materializes into view. I’m not a big fan of hotdogs but I’m so hungry I could eat a New York City subway rat. Then again, when you think about what hotdogs are made of…..you get the picture.
“What can I do ya for?” the hotdog vendor asks.
“One hotdog and a bottle of water, please,” I reply.
“Whaddya want on it?”
“Comin’ right up.”
The vendor fishes a hotdog out of his cart, puts it in a bun, and slathers bright yellow mustard product all over it.
“Two bucks,” the man says.
I hand the vendor a five and wait for my change. As I’m waiting I see a Styrofoam cup marked “Tips” perched on top of the cart. I’m taken aback. Since when did hotdog vendors start asking for tips?
“Here you go pal,” the vendor says, handing me back three dollars.
“Thanks,” I reply.
I take my hot dog and water, move off to the side, and start eating. I don’t leave the man a tip. I may have lived off the largesse of others for almost nine years, but hot dog stands asking for tips is out of line. Before you know it the cashier at the supermarket’s going to have a tip jar. You’ve got to take a stand somewhere.
As I munch on my dirty water dog I monitor my emotional state for signs of guilt. Surprisingly, I don’t feel any. I haven’t waited tables in over a year. Maybe my heart has hardened. Am I becoming like my old customers? Am I becoming cheap? It’s possible. Or maybe I’m coming to terms with reality. Who knows?
I finish my hotdog with an untroubled soul. But just as I’m turing to leave a dirty, disheveled, deranged looking guy walks up next to the hotdog stand holding a cardboard sign marked in crude magic marker letters.
HOMELESS. NEED MONEY FOR BOOZE, HOOKERS, AND DRUGS.
HEY, AT LEAST I’M NOT BULLSHITTING YA.
I can’t help but laugh. This guy may be homeless but he’s got flair. I fish a dollar out of my pocket and hand it to him.
“Love the sign man,” I say.
“Thank you, sir!” the homeless man says, beaming. “God bless you!”
As I cross the street I can’t help but think that the homeless guy’s not going to use my money for mind altering substances and paid female companionship. He’s probably really hungry and realized he needed to employ some showmanship to set him apart from the other beggars working the avenue. My dollar’s better spent in his hands then in the hotdog vendor’s tip jar.
Or maybe he will use my money to purchase the aforementioned “luxuries.” Oh well. Them’s the breaks. But if I was in his shoes I’d probably want hookers and booze too.
My conscience clear, I pat my newly sated stomach and go home.