I just gave a homeless guy $8.50.
Because I’m nice?
Because I’m tired?
Because I’m travelling alone and felt like a little conversational companionship?
A combination of the above maybe but they’re not the real reason.
It’s because he put the hard sell on me.
$8.50 is nothing in the grand scheme of things. I’m sitting in a flash restaurant writing this, the kind where people wear their nice shirts and say things like, ‘I’ve been so busy lately!’, then spend 6-hours sipping $15 drinks.
I’ve been here the past 3-hours (4-hours now) ordering food to chew up time. I do not fit in. I’m wearing shorts and sneakers and have my bag of crap with me. My bill will be 5-6x what I gave the homeless guy.
The front of the restaurant was a little dirty and dark. It didn’t look open so I hesitated to walk in. That’s when he struck.
‘Excuse me sir, how are you doing today?’
I was already facing him.
‘I’m doing great thank you, how are you?’
‘You look it! And let me ask, did your parents raise you well?’ He spoke through his toothless front gums.
‘They did, I’m very lucky.’
‘I can tell, because you stopped to say hello to someone below you.’
‘No one is below me.’
His skin was darker than mine.
‘And I can tell you’re not a racist because you’re talking to me.’
This I didn’t care about. I talk to anyone the same. But the first two lines are what you should pay attention to.
Within 15-seconds of meeting me, he complimented me, twice. Once directly and once indirectly.
Directly by saying I looked great and indirectly by asking if my parents raised me well.
As it turned out, they did.
‘Sir, my name is Thomas James.’ (Changed name)
‘Nice to meet you, Daniel,’ he said ‘now I’m looking for someone like you to help me.’
I kept listening.
‘Are you hungry Daniel?’
‘Well me too, and I’m looking to fill my tummy with some hot wings down the street.’
I half thought about saying lets go and get them together. But I didn’t.
‘I can get me a serving for $8.50, would you be able to help me out with that?’
Notice the very specific amount.
‘Yes sir, I’m going to get me some wings, fill my belly and go over under the bridge to sleep,’ he was smiling, ‘oh man, I can’t wait!’
‘Where are the wings?’
‘Down there on the corner.’
I walked closer to the street to get a better look.
‘Where you from Daniel?’
Making the conversation about me.
‘Australia, how you liking Cleveland?’
‘I just got here today.’
‘Well I been here close to 49-years, it’s my birthday soon,’ he was enthusiastic, ‘I’ve got holes in my shoes but I’m hoping to get myself some warm socks soon.’
Letting me know a little bit more of his story.
‘Okay, let me see what cash I have.’
It so happened I had exactly $8 in my pocket. I’d been carrying it around for the past few days.
I grabbed it out and handed it to him.
‘Daniel, you’re the best. This is incredible. I’m nearly going to have a full tummy tonight, all I need to do is find $0.50 more.’
$0.50 sounds like not much more on top of $8 but it’s 6.25%.
I knew I had $0.50 in coins somewhere. I fumbled through my wallet and handed him the extra two quarters.
‘Oh wait, I think the chicken was $9.50.’
The only slip up he made.
‘No, no, you said $8.50, have a good night.’
‘Bless you Daniel.’
Who knows where he’s going to spend the money. Food, cigarettes, drugs. I hope he gets the wings but at the same time I don’t care, it’s his now.
What can we learn from Thomas James?