Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Legalization of Panhandling

This was the first piece I wrote for my humor writing course.

The Legalization of Panhandling

Philadelphia has a long and storied history when it comes to panhandling. The term itself was coined by one Mr. Benjamin Franklin, who noticed that colonial bums would often hold out rusty copper pots when trying to guilt people into paying their stamp tax. However, these founding fathers of filth would not merely beg for the change of others. Nay, they would offer up services such as chopping firewood, raking leaves, or finding more slave women for Thomas Jefferson to sleep with. In our modern society, bums have grown to possess a sense of entitlement. They feel that we owe them our change, and do not want to provide anything in return. And to be honest, I’m tired of it. Therefore I propose that panhandling be legalized.

A similar system to what I envision has already been set up in Nevada, albeit for prostitution, not pilfering people’s pockets. I can see the Bummy Ranch being a hot tourist spot for those doe-eyed suburbanites that come to the city wanting the true grim and gritty experience. Let’s follow the imaginary journey of young William, as he experiences his first encounter with the domicile-challenged.
William enters the lobby cautiously, nervous and yet a bit excited, where he is greeted by the host muttering foul obscenities under his breath. The unwashed odor penetrates his nostrils, overpowering his olfactory organs. William then sees the bums lined up, facial tics and chaotic ramblings going full tilt as they try to lure in a prospective client. Perhaps he is in the mood to be followed by Crazy Cart-pushing Polly. What possible use she could have for all of those tiny shoes? Or maybe William’s tastes lean more toward Overcoat Ollie. Why would he wear five winter coats in the sweltering August heat?

Oh, wait, it looks like our boy Willy has chosen. He’ll be going with Spray-bottle Johnson. A perfect choice for a first-timer! Before they begin their party, William and Spray-bottle will discuss just what William wants to have in his panhandle and then haggle over the price. Spray-bottle is most famous for his window “cleanings,” but also offers a wide range of other services from psychotic threats to rabid conspiracy theories to handjobs. Not wanting too much excitement on his first visit, William decides on a window spray followed by an attempted tire slash. The two talk off together into a backroom where William’s magical scene will play itself out.

Hours later, when he eventually leaves the Bummy Ranch after deciding to experience Shirtless Simmons as well, William finds that he is out three dollars and eighty-two cents. He couldn’t be happier. Of course, he’s not aware that Spray-bottle Johnson will follow him out into the parking lot, knock him senseless with a half-brick, and steal his wallet. But that’s just Spray-bottle’s level of commitment. He always gives his clients the premium package.

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