I had kind of a stressful day at work today, so I decided to go see the Simpsons movie afterward. On my way over to the theater, I was passing by the pizza place I frequent when a one-legged homeless woman asked if I would buy her some pizza. That’s not the sort of thing I normally do, but I figured, what the hell, it’s not much money and at least she wasn’t just asking for cash like most of the panhandlers I see. So we went into the pizza place and I bought her some pizza. Then she said she didn’t want to seem ungrateful but could I give her just a couple of bucks? I was a little suspicious at that point, but she did seem to be genuinely homeless, and she only had one leg, so I gave her two dollars and left before she could ask for anything more. I was thus feeling vaguely generous and self-satisfied as I continued on my way to the theater.
I thought the movie was very good, in stark contrast to most of the recent seasons of the TV show. It really hung together as an organic unit with a coherent plot, in addition to being very funny, neither of which is true of almost any episode of the show in the past five years or so. I suspect most of the difference is due to how much more time and effort went into the movie than goes into an episode, but I also wonder if the longer running time is more compatible with the style of the writers. In many ways it was a lot more like the very early episodes, not just heavily plot-driven but containing actual moments of pathos (and slightly grating heavy-handed moralizing), whereas most recent episodes are more character-driven and feel kind of thrown together, like the writers had several ideas for a plot but couldn’t maintain any of them for the length of a whole show so they mashed them all into one. It seems like the writers, having more space to develop a plot for the movie, could relax and focus more intently on one plot arc rather than hastily sketching out one, then another, then a third, and slapping them together into a mediocre half-hour. I don’t know how much sense this really makes, though. Like I said, I think the main difference is that they had more time (and, presumably, money) to work on the movie.
After the movie, I was feeling rather hungry, so I went by the pizza place again. Outside, I was stopped by a panhandler who asked me for 75 cents, then said what he really wanted was a slice of pizza since he hadn’t eaten in two days. Ordinarily I definitely wouldn’t have agreed to buy him one, but I was still feeling good about the woman earlier so I said I would. He seemed a little surprised, for good reason; when I went inside and ordered for both of us, the people there said the guy had $150 on him and I really shouldn’t be buying him anything. So I didn’t. After I ordered for myself only, the manager went out and talked to the guy, and he left shortly afterward.
I was feeling a bit foolish and naive at that point. I don’t ordinarily think of myself as the sort of person to be taken in by scams like that, and I don’t ordinarily give guys like that anything. Of course, they’re usually asking for change or cigarettes, and I can just (truthfully) answer that I don’t have any on me. Buying food is what people often say you should do instead of giving them money, and it seems the less scrupulous ones have caught on to this and will ask for food after being rebuffed. They still come out ahead, after all.
So was the earlier woman also scamming me? Maybe. There’s not really any way for me to know. I do think it’s not that likely, since she asked me for food first and money only later, but I may just be saying that to reassure myself. Even if she did rip me off, I feel better about giving to her, since whether or not she was really homeless she was definitely missing a leg and hobbling around on crutches, whereas the other guy could well have had no real problems at all.
I’m normally a very suspicious person, and it takes a lot to get me to trust people. This is the sort of experience that keeps me that way, no matter how much I try to develop ways to let my guard down and trust people.
After I ate my pizza I went back to my apartment and there was a note on the door telling me my rent was late and if I didn’t pay it within three days I would be evicted. It really just hasn’t been a good day at all.