The streets of New York are full of people who want money, so you get used to being asked constantly for spare change. There are the homeless people, and the crazies, like the one I saw this morning. This guy was holding a sign that said "I need money so I can get drunk and go home with two women." At least he was honest, although I would suggest he takes a bath and shaves, or else I don't know where he's going to find two women who'll have him. Then there's this man that I see all over the city, which is crazy, because it's kind of a big city. He always asks in a certain way, "D'ya have a dime?" My friend Erin gave him a quarter one time and asked him why he only asks for dimes. But he seemed confused by the question and all he could say was "D'ya have a dime?" like he's been saying it for so long that it's all he can say.
Then there's the people who sit on the street corners with a big jar for spare change that they are collecting for the homeless people. I seldom have cash of any kind, let alone change, but I give it to those guys because they are always really polite and they look me in the eyes when I walk by, with a look that, to be honest, makes me feel guilty not to give.
New York also has a lot of people handing out pamphlets and coupons and flyers to passersby, and these drive me crazy. There's enough litter around without more being potentially dispersed! But the worst are the people who stop you as you're hurrying along, attempting to get you to sign up for this or that. It could be anything from sponsoring a child in Africa (which is great--I'm not complaining about good causes!), signing a petition, or promoting a new salon. The last is the one I got today. This random guy stopped me to ask me who cuts my hair. And the funny thing was that I automatically knew he was trying to sell me on something, and yet when he said, "I like your hair--where do you get it cut?" I automatically smiled, touched my hair, and felt good about myself. I instantly snapped out of it and got away from the clutches of the salon-promoter as quickly as I could, but I pondered the power of a simple compliment, not quite a lie, but a ruse to get me to feel kindly toward the salesman and interested in what he had to say.
Kind of like the phone-spam message I got today. The guy said, "We are aware that your loans payments are behind and can help you," or something to that effect, and even though I knew all my financial affairs are in perfect order, it scared me enough to check all my credit cards and student loan information just to make sure there wasn't anything crazy going on. It was a lie by the salesman to get me to call and probably pay to have them help me "get out of debt."
I don't really know why I'm talking about all this, but it is interesting to think about the power of words, and small things that affect our emotions and fears. There's a passage in East of Eden that talks about a similar thing, but it's late and my eyes are blurring and I can't find it for the life of me, though I've thumbed through the book three times now. Oh well. Trust me--Steinbeck knows what I'm talking about.