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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Brother, Can You Spare a Q-Tip?

I’m not “paying it forward.” I wouldn’t call them random acts of kindness. If I had to call them anything, I would call them random acts of bizarre, head-scratching, “what the fuck?” I do them more to entertain myself than to spread goodwill, but I suppose that there is a bit of generosity involved. I do believe in helping those less fortunate, there are many charities I support, I think global and act local, it’s just that sometimes my generosity takes strange forms. Let me explain.

I was driving out of town last week to go mountain biking. I had a bad case of swimmer’s ear and I was already too far from home to turn back. I needed a Q-Tip or I was going to go crazy. You can only stick your finger so far into your ear, especially when you are driving. I pulled into a Quickie-Mart in downtown Seattle just before the freeway entrance. The only Q-Tips they had were the huge 300 count size and all I needed was one lousy Q-Tip. At that point I would have paid $100 for a single Q-Tip, so I bought the big box and headed back to my car. There was a panhandler just outside the door to the Quickie-Mart asking for spare change. Instead of money, I gave him 299 Q-Tips and continued on my way.

There is a 24-hour grocery store near my apartment that seems to have a panhandler stationed in front of it 24 hours a day. I never give the on-duty panhandler money, but I almost always pull some random item out of my bag and offer it up. It may be a piece of fruit, or a Power Bar, or a thing of yogurt, or a bottle of beer, or perhaps an entire roasted chicken if they look really hungry.

I feel that “homeless” is an over-used euphemism for problems that go way beyond not having a home. Panhandlers represent a wide variety of issues that may or may not have a solution. I think that the city of Seattle does quite a lot for those individuals who are homeless. I support local homeless shelters, but I think that my “give a bum a piece of chicken” program is also a good idea, and because I don’t think that you can sell an opened box of Q-Tips, I would like to think that because of my actions there is a group of crack heads out there with clean ears. I would like to think that somewhere out there a panhandler is a little more regular because of the bananas I gave him.

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