This summer has really opened my eyes to a problem I feel is getting out of control: The constant solicitation that is taking place on American streets. Because of my opportunities to travel this summer I have come to the realization that this really is an epidemic that is becoming prevalent in this country. What makes this problem unique is that all different groups of people, young and old, are taking part in bothering Americans who want nothing to do with what they are offering or are going about the process all wrong. I just quickly want to illustrate some diverse examples of what I am talking about:
When I was in Spokane I could not believe all of the youth groups, sports teams, boy scout/girl scout troops, and other kid clubs that took to roadside streets and busy intersections to ask for donations for their various upcoming trips/tournaments. Armed with cardboard signs and buckets, these youngsters were yelling and jumping up and down while the light was green and then approaching car windows while the light was red asking for money. First off, no service at all was even being offered. No car wash, no baked goods, no coupon books…they were just asking for donations. Really? What kind of a “fundraiser” is that? I would never let my kid ask strangers for straight-up cash with nothing in return. Secondly, please do not bug me while I am in my car. When driving, my car is my shield from the outside. Do not think for one second that I am going to roll my window down for you so you can solicit me. Besides if you are female and extremely attractive, I am not going to give you the time of day. Sorry, I just can’t think of anything ruder than soliciting a motorist for cash. Thirdly, and most importantly, roadside soliciting is completely dangerous. The fact that kids are out at busy intersections is a travesty. With so many bad and distracted drivers these days, standing out at an intersection and approaching cars for hours on end is a death wish. It is just a matter of common sense. I know adults are running these groups, how strapped for cash must you really be to risk lives?
Right now in the state of Washington, citizens are trying to get an initiative on the November ballot to completely legalize marijuana. To get the initiative on the ballot, they need a certain number of signatures from state residents. Having spent a significant amount of time in Seattle and Spokane this summer, I have seen what seems like legions of people who are trying to collect the necessary amount of signatures necessary to put the measure on the ballot. Aside from just seeing them, I have been approached by way too many of them as well. My main problem I have with these people who are exercising their right to petition? Not one of them looks like a normal human being. I swear, every person who is petitioning to legalize marijuana in the state of Washington have not showered or shaved for at least two weeks, have at least ten piercings, wear clothes that don’t fit, have never heard of a comb in their life, and look like they just came out of the freak show at Barnum and Bailey’s Circus. I am not kidding. Even if I was a pot smoker I would not waste one second taking a big step back when one of these people approached me. Judging from my conversations with normal looking people who do support the legalization of marijuana, they feel the same way about these petitioners. There really is an audience out there for these people to get their required amount of signatures but they insist on looking like they just walked out of a grave. Advice: Put some care into your appearance and take a shower. Look presentable when you approach the general public. Remember, many of the people you will talk to have kids. Do not scare them.
The third example of soliciting that is troubling is the age old problem of homeless panhandlers working the corners. I complimented Pittsburgh on this blog when I visited the city last May for their low amount of bums on the street. However, everywhere else I visit, including my hometown of Missoula, these people run wild. It is an eye sore for the community to look at and in my opinion, it is a safety hazard as well. Over the years, it seems as if panhandlers get more and more aggressive. Numerous times I have been cussed at and threatened by these people. My dad ran a homeless clinic for a few years when I was a kid so I grew a tolerance for them but when they direct a threat towards me I lose control. I can’t imagine the fear women must have when they have to cross paths with a bum, especially if they are alone at night.
So what do we do about all three of these groups in general? Well first of all I say we deal with kids on the streets asking for money first. There needs to be some sort of ordinance that completely forbids people from approaching car windows at intersections. If we can’t go that far, there needs to be something that forbids kids from approaching car windows at intersections. Again, this is just dangerous. If you think about it though, besides being completely stupid from a safety standpoint, there is really no redeeming lesson for our youth to take from asking for money from motorists. Wash cars, sell candy bars, staff a concession stand at your local minor league ballpark for a night. Find some type of way to earn money other than simply asking for it.
I feel the second most pressing issue is the panhandling problem. I know cities try as hard as they can to combat this problem and make the streets better but there has to be some better way. Homeless veterans need to check into Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and get every benefit possible to get their life back in order. All the other homeless people should check out the shelter options in their respective cities. Aggressive panhandling can’t be tolerated. I don’t want to just throw out solutions that have been tried over and over and state obvious facts though. Truthfully, I am at a loss on what to do. Any suggestions?
Now to the marijuana petitioners. You have every right to do what you are doing…please just take a shower.
Sorry for the rather negative post. It was just what was on my mind tonight. Who knows how I will react if I find myself homeless some day or if my kid convinces me that he/she needs to be at an intersection asking for money for a trip to Disneyworld or if I turn into a pothead and quit bathing. The only advice I can give myself to prevent against something like this is simple: Don’t Blink.