Remember the old saying, “Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink?” With so many people out of work (lots by choice) and so many “help wanted” signs everywhere, I could help but relate the two.
I spent nearly a week in Nashville with some family recently, doing the tourist thing like I always do when I’m there, and it seemed like there were people on nearly every corner who were begging for money, where I used to see those who “buss” (which means they play music and or sing for tips).
Didn’t see many of those this time, and I’m guessing the pandemic has something to do with the proliferation of panhandlers.
Most looked to be down-and-out men and women, sometimes working in pairs along Broadway, which is the main drag in downtown Nashville that gets quite crowded and loud after 10 a.m. Some were on the outskirts of town, where you had to wait on a traffic light or stop sign, holding their cardboard signs, with all their worldly belongings piled up nearby.
I have to give some of them credit for creativity, but that’s all any of them got from me.
One woman was leaning up against a building with a dog who apparently didn’t have enough sense to abandon her, clutching two beers while interacting with her cell phone.
There was this one guy who would try to stare you down, and his pitch was plainly seen on his T-shirt that read, “We need each other.” I’m not sure in what parallel universe this was logical, but I wasn’t falling for that.
Another man sat cross-legged, leaning against one of the historical downtown buildings, not saying anything, but extending a red Solo cup every time someone neared him. I don’t know if he’s a fan of that Toby Keith song “Red Solo Cup,” or if it was just a coincidence. If it was intentional, he could’ve at least been singing the chorus of that song, and may have found passersby with a sympathetic ear.
We had a very long and hard rain hit while we were there, and took cover under an awning on Third Ave. All kinds of folks go to Nashville to live it up, and we saw three young women who could’ve been wearing more than they had on, complete with big boots, short shorts, and cowgirl hats from China, and it was evident that they’d been hitting the honky tonks and feeling no pain.
Two stood under an awning across the street from us while the wildest of the three got out in the rain and purposely stood beneath a hard downpour from a rain spout, dancing with her face in the cascading water while her boots filled up.
There was a homeless guy a few feet from her who’d taken refuge in one of those blue plastic port-a-potties that stood on the sidewalk. The funny part was that he wanted to watch her, so he’d stick his head out of the door every few seconds until he couldn’t take any more rain on his face.
We weren’t impressed, but he seemed to be.
The honky tonks along Broadway have very large windows that they open up so the music inside can blare and mix with whatever songs are blasting out of the one next door on either side of them.
I have to hand it to the panhandlers. There were a few who must’ve scored a stove or refrigerator box, because their cardboard signs were humongous, and they’d hold them right up to the windows, a couple of feet from the patrons inside.
We got turned around briefly on one corner, looking for an address, and a man strolled over quickly and said, “Where you wanna go? I can get you anywhere!” In tow was a bedraggled young woman and I hate to guess what their relationship was.
We politely declined the offer and crossed the street when the light changed. Behind us, we could hear him speaking loudly and almost indignantly: “Hey, you gotta help her!” Then he turned to the woman and said, “They just gonna walk away!”
And we did, briskly.
I had to smile when we drove by one guy who was flashing a handmade sign that read, “Can a brother get a biscuit?” I really liked his approach and would’ve rolled down the window and tossed him one if I had some with me.
The one who took the cake was a very tall man with dreadlocks. He stood stiff, like a statue, with his head cocked to one side and a wild-eyed expression that reminded me of the Reverend Jim character on the old