Friday, July 25, 2014


When the crippled beggar up there on Congress Street shakes his paper cup, the jingle jangle is rich and resonant. It sounds like his business is booming.

Or maybe it’s a front, like when your real estate agent pulls up in a BMW he/she can’t begin to afford, just so you’ll think he/she is super successful. Maybe the beggar’s cup is full of rocks and bottle caps just so he’ll sound like he's a super successful beggar. But then again, you would think that a crippled beggar trying to drum up business would put up the opposite front. I’m more inclined to feel obligated to fill a cup that sounds empty.

I have to admit that sometimes I’ve been tempted to take up crippled begging. It’s a quick and easy way to become an independent businessman. No start-up costs. No lining up of investors. No overhead. All you need is a paper cup and, if you really want to get fancy, a scrap of cardboard and a pencil. I can set my own hours. No office politics. Some folks say begging is demeaning, which I suppose is true. But so was a lot of other stuff I was hooked up with by the vocational rehab agencies that help cripples find jobs. One time way back when I was sent on a telemarketing interview for Time-Life books. The interviewer had me do a mock phone call. I read from a script announcing the exciting news about the new volume in our series of books entitled The Old West. This volume was The Gunfighters and it was “handsomely bound in genuine simulated leather.”

But anyway, the best indicator that the profit margins in cripple begging still aren’t that high is the fact that nobody appears to be shaking crippled beggars down. I haven’t seen or heard anything about mafia thugs approaching crippled beggars and demanding a cut of the take. And I haven’t heard reports of crippled beggars on corners being gunned down in drive-by shootings because they refused to play along.

If there was big money to be made in cripple begging, you know this would be going on. And there would be competing begging cartels, each headed by an uncrippled kingpin controlling his/her own batch of crippled beggars. Sort of like a pimp. And there would be bloody turf wars with the kingpins battling for control of lucrative begging corners.

Either that or crippled beggars would get shaken down in a more legal and civilized manner. Some shrewd entrepreneur, smelling an untapped profit center, would enter into an exclusive begging franchise agreement with the city council. And then crippled begging would become tightly regulated. Any crippled beggar (franchisee) would have to sign a contract with the shrewd entrepreneur (franchisor). The cripple agrees to pay all fees associated with acquiring a crippled beggar franchise plus a percentage of the monthly proceeds to the franchisor in exchange for the right to beg on a certain corner. Sort of like a pimp.

But so far you don't hear much about this stuff happening. So far crippled beggars are pretty much allowed to set up shop wherever they want and everybody leaves them alone, which makes it all the more tempting to become one.