This morning, Mason and I went for coffee and a roll at a little bakery I like.  Standing directly in front of the door of the bakery was a man with a small cup.  

As Mason and I went in, he asked us for money.  “Maybe on the way out,” I said, reflexively.  Typically, when someone asks me for money as I’m entering a store, I keep the coins I get in change from my transaction in my hand and give them to the person on the way out.  I wasn’t getting any food or coffee today, though (I had a bagel right before at home- long story) so when I walked out, I didn’t have any change in my pocket. 

“Spare a little change?” he asked.

“Sorry,” I said. 

“You said ‘maybe on the way out’” he replied.  Aggressively, not friendlily.

“I said ‘maybe’” I retorted.

And then I felt like an utter piece of crap, because seriously, who gets testy with a homeless person?  Yes, I was annoyed when he gave me a hard time for not giving him anything, because I’m not actually obligated to give anyone money who is asking for it on the street.  But I did say “maybe on the way out,” because that’s what I typically do, and then I didn’t give him any money, and I got sarcastic with him about it, which is just lame. 

It is also, apparently, very very bad karma.  Mason and I were at the bakery at the start of a day of soliciting money on behalf of a non-profit we work for that has a charity auction coming up at the end of the month.  For five hours, we pounded the pavement of the hip shopping districts around the city, passing out pamphlets and donation forms, begging for donations.   

We told every store owner, regardless of location, that we “live in the neighborhood” (because, really Chicago, though it is often described as a “city of neighborhoods,” is actually more like a bunch of areas sewn together into one large neighborhood tapestry so it’s not really lying so much as imagining a better, more tapestry-like city) and telling them also that “most of our classmates live in the neighborhood, (see “tapestry explanation,” supra,) and that it would be “excellent advertising” for them to donate to the auction (that part is true, and I know because I am one of the people responsible for making the damned “thank you to Local Business X for their generous donation of Y” placards.)  And after five hours and thirty-five pamphlets and four neighborhoods with four parking meters plugged with four quarters scrounged from some really unappealing places beneath the seats of my car we got…..two donations. 

Two.  Ouch. 

My favorite was the owner of the asian candy and food store who, when I said (honestly, actually) that a lot of people at school seem really obsessed with those funny jelly candy things with lychee in them and might get all excited about a gift basket of those said, in the most incredulous voice I’ve ever heard in real life “I’m not going to give you anything for free” as if I was trying to dupe her.  Or maybe the proprietor of  the “male hair salon” in Boystown who could barely contain his confusion as to why two straight girls were asking him for help.  Or the bouncer at the bar who was looking nervously around us to make sure that no one cool passing on the street was noticing him talking to such losers as us. 

Yes, it was an awesome way to spend a Saturday.

How about you internets?  Anyone want to donate anything to an auction?  It’s for a really good cause and I will personally send you a very glamorous tax deduction form for your troubple PLUS you’ll get free publicity…..