Office Panhandling

A typical business school graduate.

The place where I work is a paradox. As an internet-based business (we retail shit) the boss hates it when people walk into our little 20′ x 20′ den o’ fun. We are decidedly not a store. But the manufacturers of the products we sell don’t like to give their shit to minuscule internet-only outfits, like some pimply-faced nerd working out of his garage. To that end, the boss did a crappy photoshop of his business name on a fake picture of a retail location that he purloined, sent it to our suppliers and strives hard to convince them that we are ye olde brick and mortar.

I think what he really means is that we should be bricked and mortared. Right out of existence. Yeah, that’s it. And I couldn’t agree more.

Most retailers adhere to an ABC philosophy. “Always Be Closing.” It’s old school salesman shtick where your only purpose in life is to divorce a fish from his wallet in the shortest possible period of time.. My boss, though, likes to be different. He’s more about the ABL philosophy. “Always Be Lying.” It makes the game easier when you don’t follow things like rules and morals.

So, in a nutshell, the boss wants the entire world except our suppliers to KEEP OUT of our little nondescript strip mall headquarters. Our office has no signage of any kind. Even the post office and FedEx have a hard time finding us. The glass front door doesn’t contain a trace of our business name or even a sticker or any hint of what might be lurking inside. We’re as nondescript as you can get. We’d be perfect cover for the Area 51 administration office. (That would be a marked step up for me. I can dream, can’t I?)

Somehow, though, the public still finds us. They are more than happy to walk in like they own the place. A lot of them think we’re the business that used to be there 15 years ago. Some of them try to sell us tamales out of their car. A great many of them are salespeople, like the investment broker who stopped by this week. She asked if any of the employees needed help with their investments. Whew!!! What a riotous laugh we had over that one!!! Lady, you obviously have no clue how little we get paid!

I hate people walking into our office as much as the next guy. As is my nature, I tried to come up with creative solutions to this problem. In a veritable fit of creativity I head this idea: Put a sign on the door that reads, “Absolutely No Admittance.” The boss couldn’t poop on this idea fast enough. Remember: He is working hard to maintain the illusion that his place is a “store” even though it’s not. It would be bad news if a sales rep stopped by and caught him in the act.

Other sign ideas I had intended to keep out annoying life forms:

  • Extreme Radiation Danger
  • Bird Flu Quarantine Area
  • 1.21 Gigawatt Microwave In Use
  • Justin Bieber Music Zone
  • Poisonous Snake Recreation Facility

Because this is a sick, cruel and twisted world, none of my ideas were accepted. Like all true geniuses I am not meant to be recognized in my own time.

And this is how, yesterday, I ended up minding my own business, sitting at my desk, when I was approached by a person off the street.

You might ask: “How could a person come in off the street and make it all the way to my desk?”

Good question. The answer is that the people I work with are bleeding-out-their-anus assholes of the first degree. When someone opens the door and walks into our facility, the boss and cow orker pretend like the person doesn’t exist. I guess their logic is: “Ignore it and it will go away.” So both of them remain hunched over their computer terminals and won’t even glance over to see who the hell is standing there.

It is always painfully awkward. It’s fucking sick, actually. And each and every time this same routine gets played out.

So it falls on me, your humble Guru of Negativity and certified Hater of All Things People, to turn to the person and acknowledge that, yes indeed, they really do exist. Welcome to Assholes, Inc. How may I help you?

In this case it was a shabbily dressed woman who looked a little on the edge. She strolled right up to my desk, flashed a “police department” ID card, and, in so many words, told me she was looking for money. She proceeded to weave her tale. She had been trapped in town for three months and needed money to travel so she get to her post office box in another city where the promised riches of her uncashed checks awaited.

Remember, this is all happening at my fucking desk. Somehow she made it into our office, past our rigorous security, and found me because I was the only person in the establishment with enough milk of human kindness to recognize the existence of another soul. Sick fucking world, ain’t it?

Sadly, I was dubious of her credentials and although it broke my heart and she gave me her best “I’m Old Yeller and you just shot me” look, I had to show her to the door. I was strong. I was firm. I was successful. She was gone and out of our lives, except for the fact that she lingered outside the door for the next 45 minutes.

The problem was that I just wasn’t able to accept her story. I didn’t have that level of suspension of disbelief in me. The bad people, the spammers, the fraudsters and all of the liars out there have ruined it for the few good apples. I realized that what the world needs is a system for connecting warmhearted givers, like me, to the folks in need of help who have truly legitimate situations. As it stands right now, how am I supposed to know the difference? There’s no way to know!

That’s when I had another fit of inventiveness. I came up with an idea. I call it The idea is simple: Registered panhandlers are able to work within the user community and build a reputation score. Thus, the missing ingredient of “trust” is created and the good feelings (and the cash) can flow.

Each member would have their own profile page, complete with avatar, where we could learn a little more about them:

  • Name: Roger “Nickels” Smith
  • Area of Expertise: Borrowing Cigarettes, holding a sign about hope and “change”
  • Preferred Locations: Post office, coffee house, east entrance to WalMart
  • Turn Ons: Free wifi, public restrooms, dog treats
  • Turn Offs: People who respond with actual food when holding “Will Work For Food” sign

If only my visitor had a reputation score I might have been able to risk helping her. As it stands right now, I have much too little trust in random passerby, even if they are pushy enough to make it all the way to my desk.

4 responses

  1. In this instance maybe it’s a good thing you’re so close to the office bathroom. Next time someone walks in, make a face, grab the newspaper and make a quick dash into the bathroom. Then put a glass to the wall and listen.


    1. Damn, girl. You’re right, of course. I’m so used to the omnipresent office bathroom in my life I sometimes forget it can be helpful in certain circumstances. You think fast on your feet.


  2. That is a great idea. A registration fee from the panhandlers, a cut of the take, you’re a rich man.


    1. Thanks! On my service we’re going to call them Service Providers.


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