Driving back from my morning excursion to the park with my dog Storm, I was stopped at the lights at the intersection of 5th street and Lamar. Not sure why I’m writing in the style of court testimony, but I’ll cease now, or cessate. Which isn’t a proper word. The corner of 5th and Lamar is a popular location for homeless beggary types and sometimes attracts the more creative ones. Like the amputee holding the sign saying ‘Just need a leg-up’.
Actually, I haven’t seen that, but if I do then I’ll definitely give them money. Well I would have given them money, but now I’ve come up with the idea myself then I probably won’t because it’ll seem like they’ve copied me after reading my blog. The public library is only about 6 blocks away and they can get free web access there so it’s perfectly possible.
Anyway. The man on the corner today was holding a cardboard sign saying ‘Free Hugs’. He was also holding up a clear plastic bag full of big badges on which were printed ‘Free Hugs’. I’m not sure if the whole ‘get something for nothing’ philosophy that he may have been trying to tap into was working. Admittedly, I’m hardly the target market, given that the idea of a hug from a stranger is about as attractive as a lumbar puncture. But even if I were of a huggy disposition, I don’t think I’d want one of his oversized badges. For a start, it implies that I’m the kind of idiot that believes hugs generally involve some form of monetary transaction and while I personally wouldn’t be against the idea of charging, I don’t think it’ll take off. Not in this country anyway. Plus, it wasn’t clear from my quick look without making eye-contact, whether he was expecting payment for the badge. I don’t really think you should have to pay to promote something that’s free, but I understand that the man may not have been doing this for purely altruistic reasons and therefore I’d probably feel obliged to give him something towards the cost of the badge. Admittedly there’s no knowing how much the badges actually cost him, or what illegal act he may have committed to make them, and there certainly wasn’t a lot of creative effort, given that the badge is just black text on a white background in a not terribly attractive handwriting. But, I did subscribe to Marxism Today when I was 19 and despite his lack of artistic ability, the man clearly has needs.
But then I thought what if he wasn’t expecting any reward and felt such a rush of kindness from me that he tried to hug me. I’d obviously stay in my car and keep my seatbelt on but a hug might still be an unpleasant experience. But then if I refused it or recoiled in horror, I’d be like everyone else and why then would I have bothered to buy a Free Hugs badge from a homeless man in the first place? I’m clearly a hypocrite.
Even if I was able to navigate this social etiquette minefield, what would I do with the Free Hugs badge? I wouldn’t wear it out because people would think I’m a weirdo and it’d be especially humiliating to not receive any hugs when you’re wearing a badge that’s offering them for free. But also, because the badge looks a piece of old tat, patronising do-gooders might think that I made it myself and am in some way retarded and attempt to hug me out of sympathy.
I could give the badge to my dog but then I’d have to pin it to her ear, which would hurt and make her more resentful about hugging. Plus I’d have to stuff my clothes with bacon and stand behind the person hugging her, but just out of reach, so she’d have to jam her head over their shoulder in a bid to get to me. But the person might smell the bacon and feel betrayed by us both.
In conclusion, I think this man’s pitch is entirely flawed and if he has badge-making capabilities then maybe he should get one made that says ‘Supervisor’ and just stroll into any workplace he likes the look of and start working. Probably be best to try this at a fast-food restaurant because then he can get a meal without having to beg for it and thus reclaim some of his dignity. Plus, as we all know fast-food workers are dirty and stupid and so he’d blend in quite well.