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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Stephanie, the Tattoo-Faced Woman, Underestimated How Her Look Would Affect Her Employment Options


Have you met Stephanie?

Stephanie lives in my neighborhood. She is the subject of much discussion and many e-mails, some of which come from the police; a distinctly marked woman you can confuse with no other; a woman who has knocked on doors at 2:00 a.m. to ask for money.

I hadn’t seen Stephanie for a while, but I saw her recently.

“Excuse me? Excuse me?”

I look up from my weeding in the front garden. This is not the first time I’ve been interrupted by people asking for money while I’m weeding. I blame it on an alluring combination of stained gardening pants and a paint-spattered Elvis-commemorative-stamp tee-shirt.

Drives the peoples wild.

Stephanie de-bikes, leaving it on the sidewalk, and approaches rapidly. “Could I talk to you for a moment, ma’am?" she says. "Ma’am, are you a Christian woman?”

Ah. This is not the first time I’ve heard this approach.

“No,” I said. “Sorry, I’m not.” I go back to my weeding.

This does not deter Stephanie. “Ma’am, do you have some money?”

I stop weeding and sigh ever so slightly. “Yes, I do. Now are you going to ask me to give my money to you?”

“Yes, ma’am, if you could just see your way clear to giving me a couple dollars, I haven’t eaten in two days.”

I look up at her. She doesn’t know that I know where she lives, that I know her last name, that we frequent the same bars. Despite her propensity for begging – Mike bought her two drinks at Mayslack’s just to shut her up about how hard it was for her to find a job now that her face is covered with tattoos – she is a slender, well-dressed married woman who lives in a nice house.

Stephanie may have issues, but not eating isn’t one of them.

“No, I’m sorry,” I say. “I don’t have any money. I’m working in my yard.”

“You could run inside,” she offers.

I stare at her.

“You could run inside,” she repeats. “I’ll watch your, uh, your – “

“Spade,” I say. “And I don’t want to run inside.”

She keeps talking. Surely I am a Christian woman? Surely I can see my way to giving her whatever "spare" money I had? Maybe eleven dollars? Do I have eleven dollars to spare?

Persistence is her strong suit.

Eventually my husband comes around the corner.

“Sir? Sir?” Stephanie leaves my side and launches into her speech. Poor Willie has no defenses against brazen women; and after hearing less than a couple lines of her spiel digs into his pockets and gives her two dollars.

And with that, Stephanie jumps on her bike and is gone before you can ask – and feel free to join in here – “Ma’am? Are you a Christian woman?”

24 comments:

Geo. said...

Terrific vicious cyclist tale, Pearl! Afraid I too am befuddled (sometimes enough to give money) when asked if I'm a Christian woman.

fishducky said...

I'm Jewish--would she still want my money?

Eva Gallant said...

Good for you; sticking to your guns!

Eva Gallant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joeh said...

I have never ever had any EXTRA money.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

The men are so easily confused by a prettily tatood face.

Gaucho said...

Oh, No! She's back!!?? I haven't seen her in a long time.
--Afternoon Al

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
She'd do well in Mumbai! "Dhan, dhan, apka dharma hai... "

It's one of the delights of being a brahmacharini that I actually do NOT have money and, indeed, we live on donations from those in society seeking spiritual favour.

"Bhiksha kripaya!" ...that's a polite way of asking for your leftovers! @~}

jenny_o said...

This poor woman has issues, shyness clearly not being one of them.

vanilla said...

How did the askit escalate from two to eleven dollars; and why, then, was she satisfied with Willie's two?

wellfedfred said...

I respond to faith-based panhandling by doing my version of speaking in tongues. Rolling eyes and all.

Mr. Charleston said...

Whenever anyone comes to my house and asks if I'm Christian, I always reply that I'm Jewish. I'm not, but for some reason it sure shuts them up and moves them along. It's a trick I learned from my Jewish wife. Why it works I could never figure out for all of the Jews that I've known are warm and generous people. Nah, you're right. It must be the t-shirt.

sage said...

I think I have the perfect career for Stephanie--a harpooner on a whaling boat! Unfortunately, I don't think any harpooner recruiters have visited the Twin Cities lately (and you can tell I caught part of a Moby Dick episode recently)

Elephant's Child said...

She seems to have taken the try, try, try again adage very seriously. And fairly sucessfully too.

Juli said...

I would have told her my kids took all my money. Totally not a lie.

Hilary said...

We have a couple somewhere in our neighbourhood, who comes around regularly to pick up alcohol empties.. beer bottles and cans, wine bottles and bottles from hard liquor. Our province-run beer store accepts them for a return deposit which keeps this couple busy.

I do feel like I'm doing the happy medium.. not refusing them but not giving them a direct handout.

Perhaps the next time Stephanie comes around you can just donate your empties. That might keep her from coming back. Or at least it won't be by bike.

Rose L said...

I wonder if a "No solicitors or beggars allowed" sign hung on your door and around your neck would deter her. Or maybe next time before she gets past the Ma'am start, you should spout out, "Oh, I am glad you are here because I was wondering if you had some money you could give me? I sure could use some."
Or another approach might be to respond when she asks for money: "Well, sure. Here's the spade, and if you finish digging the weeds from here, I have other chores for you to earn the money."
Bet she would take off fast!!

the walking man said...

I'm with Rose^^^put her to work, that would be the Christian thing to do.

River said...

Next time get in first and ask her if she can spare some extra cash.
I'm going to start telling people I'm Jewish, it seems to work for some of your other commenters.

chlost said...

I have the perfect job for your wonderfully persistent Stephanie! She would be a fantastically effective telephone collections agent! No one would see those pesky tattoos, and she is obviously skilled at wringing money out of those who claim to have no none. Then she could buy a round at the bar on her commissions.

Diane Tolley said...

Definitely a face for the telephone! And a pitch: Ditto.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

A person like that would work on my last nerve.

Suldog said...

I'm usually a soft touch for folks looking for a handout, but such an approach as described here truly raises my hackles. If someone asks me straight out, I'm usually amenable. Make some sort of guilt trip the first sentence, though, and my defenses immediately raise.

Marion Bulmer said...

Fortunately, I live in the UK where begging is an urban public space or public transport thing only, and we don't seem to get cold-calling beggars at our own home apart from formal charities wanting us to agree to donate via a direct debit. Also, again because I am in the UK, there is no pressure to even pretend to be Christian any more, so that would be an opening gambit doomed to fail.

We are asked to spare a few pence for a cup of tea by people who probably last actually had mere tea when an in-patient somewhere.

Your tatooed lady has boundary issues. She can be made to go away by a short phrase involving the word police, I guess, except you are just too interested to find out what she is going to have the nerve to say next, I rather fear! Her entertainment value must be very high. She sure as hell entertains ME!