One issue a NYC resident you'd actually want something to do with (no offense to those of you 1-25%ers who aren't assholes) consistently encounters is people using the subway as their personal platform. Some are selling candy, some are devout worshipers of their relevant faith, some are singing/acting/dancing & others are simply begging for money. I may have shared a few stories on these but in case I haven't, here are some of my most memorable ones:
* The guy on the horse. I was having a bad day at the time & he was on this horse costume. Not sure if he was on some person's back that was covered by this horse but he was so hilarious I was considering giving him some money. This is the only actual performer I've seen who made me laugh.
* The acting troupe doing Shakespeare. They were actually pretty good & as you know, I work in the business. Good enough for me to bring in for meetings, though? No one really fits my standards for such things since there's enough competition & I don't want a flood of people harassing me for revealing my identity in public.
* The off key singer annoying the hell out of us with his R&B performance. Another passenger starting mimicking this guy singing "I suck" & other such things. I felt like I was on Subway Idol & was thanking God this guy didn't know I worked in the industry. However, you'd have wanted to say "I work in this industry & you STINK! Don't give up your day job." I could also add being a semi-pro singer & knowing professional singers to that.
* The failed beggar. Occasionally, you'll find people coming into the car, telling you this poor pitiful tale of woe so others will give them money. Sometimes these people have kids on them (women only, I've noticed) but most of the time, it's men. I've seen quite a few of these but the most memorable was when I was on the train with a group of young black women who had apparently just gotten off work as well as a group of young black men sitting not far from them. They had to be late teens or early 20s.
As this older white guy come onto our car to share his sob story, one of these black youth says to his friend loudly "That guy is scamming people." He didn't directly confront the beggar but he totally shut that guy down. I thought "Intelligent Black Youth: 1, Scam Artist Beggar: 0." Not sure if those women being around had anything to do with it but that moment rocked. I'd love to see more of it.
If we didn't cover it, here's my basic policies on these categories:
1. Candy sellers: I have no problem with them. I think the MTA ought to hire them for this at a fair wage. I view it as a public service but only wish the sellers who get on my main train would have more selection. It's usually Welch's fruit snacks or peanut M&Ms. If you get some regular M&Ms or Twix bars like the one guy I bought from the one time at Union Square, I might be interested when I'm hungry & have a spare buck on me (yeah, they charge $1 for candy bars & 2 for $1 for the fruit snacks).
If you want to sell World's Finest, even better! Just make sure you have some nut free chocolate if you do. Heck, I think you'd make a killing selling World's Finest on the subway since I know I'm not the only person who loves their chocolate. The Boondocks even did an episode about this; go see it if you haven't.
2. Performers: Be fucking good at whatever you do, all right? It seems the good performers are never on my train. The most famous thing happening on ours was apparently some random woman taking her clothes off while some photographer with her quickly shot her picture & moved on. By the way, not something I support since you should at least give someone some warning so they can take their kids out or cover their eyes if they want. What next, are you going to fuck right on the subway floor in front of us?
I'd also think the hygiene issues would concern you (they DO concern me when I'm just wearing shorter shorts or a short skirt). While a live sex show might be interesting, I'm pretty sure it's illegal even if you film it. Not to mention invoking the wrath of angry parents & the God bothering graffiti artist I hope the cops have shut down (they have been more present in our area lately; I hope they're also cracking down on the assholes who don't clean their dogs' poop off the sidewalk, leaving it for unsuspecting pedestrians to step in).
Aside from all this, treat your performance as though you were on a stage in front of paying customers & as though casting directors were in the audience. Have some showmanship. Have some stage presence, charisma, charm, things that don't make people pissed off at you. Treat it seriously. If you suck, we DON'T want to hear or see it. This also isn't the time to put strangers on the spot & try putting them into your act. Unless the person's a plant, don't do it. We DON'T appreciate it & it WILL bother us.
Know your skills & be honest about them. This sort of thing isn't going to get you discovered. There, I said it. Pop music lore aside, I'm pretty sure those people were networking & hustling as well. They didn't just bug commuters on subway trains; they made sure they met the right people & took their work seriously.
3. Using babies/kids to elicit sympathy: This really pisses me off. I mean, super raging pisses me off. First off, I have a Psych degree so I know what you're up to with this (if someone knows you're using a psychological tactic, the tactic doesn't work on him/her). Second, I have a sister with a young child who's expecting her 3rd right now. She doesn't have a ton of money & her family is in financial struggle from time to time. Still, I can't imagine her standing on the side of the road panhandling while showing off her pregnant belly. I also know she'd not have begged for things with her kids with her. My own parents also had & still have financial struggle but you won't see them going to beg on street corners (in fact, my mom has commented on seeing beggars wearing nicer shoes than my father's & how that made her mad). So you get zero sympathy from me. Third, I'm childfree. You want to elicit my sympathy? Get a cat or dog. Then again, I'll accuse you of being a neglectful asshole & want the Humane Society to get that animal far away from you.
This sort of thing also really bothers me because I feel like it says you have zero pride & zero scruples to use someone that way. You aren't James Belushi in Curly Sue. You might have a heart of gold but we're never going to see it if you're just trying to take the easy way out & especially if you're going around with an iPhone. Plus, I hear James Belushi is a total scumbag in real life (my husband shared a tale with me about this that you can read in a previous entry).
I feel the same way about this as I do about parents using their kids to help steal from stores.
4. Telling a sob story: Okay, come up with something original. At least be funny & charming. THIS will motivate someone to care. Above all, don't have an iPhone or anything that looks "nice" (especially if it's nicer than what the average commuter on the line where you're doing this has). If you are doing that, you're going to make people angry & prove that you're just another scamming jerk. At least the "tell me off" guy was interesting. Learn, do something interesting. Hell, be honest. If you tell us you're going to use the money for booze & drugs, people may just give b/c they're impressed with your honesty.
Personally, I'm not inclined to support this sort of thing. For one thing, I've got negative net worth. If you don't have that, you're not worse off than I or millions of other people who have oppressive student loan debt that will follow us to the grave. I have even said that to folk when personally accosted on the street (which is against the law, by the way & I did tell someone that one evening; he pretended not to hear me, then backed off). Second, no one likes being personally accosted by strangers. Ever. Okay? Young women certainly don't since it conjures up all sorts of "stranger danger" issues. Psychological studies have shown that people are more inclined to help those that are more like them & if you aren't like them, they're not going to bother. They also don't help if they're rushed, in a bad mood or there's a lot of people around the situation.
For those thinking I'm a heartless bitch, well perhaps but I'm not a sucker. I don't mind giving food. If I have some, I don't mind sharing that. If it's my own cooking, I'll want feedback. Asking for food is okay: it makes me feel you really ARE in dire straits & aren't a lying scammer.
Doing it with kids though, doesn't make me feel anything. I'll just think you're teaching some horrible values & about my sister who isn't doing that kind of thing. I have more respect for women who become strippers or prostitutes to feed their kids as I don't know of any using their kids to get clients or bringing that work home to their kids by letting them watch or participate in some fashion. If they're doing drugs or drinking around them, then you're talking about the parent exposing the kids to drugs or alcohol, which can happen without the mother taking on those kinds of jobs. Totally separate issue.
Plus, there's other options besides pissing off commuters & issuing fake apologies for disturbing them. If you really were sorry for the inconvenience, you wouldn't be offering your spiel in the first place. How many signs do you see for organizations that help homeless people & outreach groups? At least try that first & LET them help you.
Lastly, DON'T STINK!!! Try washing off in a public bathroom, take care of the smelly areas. If we can smell you, we don't want to be near it. Also not a good idea to be stinky if you want to sell candy. That's not accomplishing that aim. I was once in a car with one of those accordion player groups & one of them had a baby that stank to high heaven. No joke. When that kid was away from me, it was fine but when that kid was sitting with his mom (seated right next to me) I had to turn my head away & STILL could smell the stank.
I ended up having to switch cars b/c the smell was that bad. Now I may not have kids but I have been around little kids before, both on the subway & in my personal life. I have never encountered a child that smelled & reeked like this one, even when one of my nephews or some other little kid needed a diaper change. More reasons for me to be mad at you & want you out of my presence quickly. Most of the typical NYC subway smells weren't even as bad as this so that's got to tell you something. Damn it, if you plan to use children as pawns CLEAN THEM!!!!!!!! That is all.