My sister married a wonderful American man a few years ago and has been living in the U.S.A ever since. I go down to visit her and my amazing brother-in-law every couple years. (I love my BIL, he’s awesome! Can ya tell??)
They lived in the Philly area. And I love Philadelphia. Ever since the moment I stepped off the plane and into the city, I knew it was the right place for me. And the city loved me too.
That adoration did not filter to my sister. Philadelphia hates my sister. Every time she tries to do something nice, it bites her in the ass. This is exactly one of those memories.
We were walking through Center City one afternoon, doing some window shopping and getting some exercise. As we walked, I noticed a few panhandlers and street people (some of whom I was assuming were homeless because of their carts full of random belongings).
I didn’t have a lot of experienced with people who lived on the streets because I grew up in a small town where homelessness wasn’t much of a problem. If someone didn’t have a place to stay, there was always friends or family to offer a couch or spare room. Everyone knew everyone else and someone was always willing to help out. It’s not like that in big cities.
When the strangers would say hello, I would try to smile, but I’m sure it looked more like an awkward grimace. My sister, on the other hand, would throw a few coins in their hats or bowls, or whatever they had sitting in front of them, and she’d chat for a minute or two about the weather or other trivial subjects.
My sis explained to me that she hates when prosperous people ignore people who are less fortunate because half the time it’s not their fault they fell on hard times. She believed they deserved a little bit of dignity and this was her way of giving back. Her logic made sense to me and I respected my sister even more than I already did.
At lunch time, we hopped in her vehicle and drove a few minutes to a food stand called Gino’s that makes the best cheesesteaks I’ve ever tasted. (While in Philly I was taught they aren’t called Philly Cheesesteaks because it’s kind of redundant. Now I know.)
As my BIL was getting our order, my sis and I were looking at all the pictures of celebrities that Gino’s hung on the outside walls of the food stand. We saw all kinds of celebs, some we knew, some we didn’t.
I need to interject here and explain that my sister and I were going to a NKOTB/Backstreet Boys concert the week that I was visiting, so it thoroughly impressed my sister when she saw a picture of the BSB hanging on the wall.
She literally pointed it out to me when a homeless man was walking by, stopped in his tracks, stared at my sister, and yelled, “DON’T POINT. THAT’S RUDE.” Without waiting for an answer, he continued on his merry way.
Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of experience with homeless people, and I was too scared to blink so I just stared at my sister with wide eyes, wondering if this man was about to pull out a knife and hurt us.
My sister, having more courage than me, knit her eyebrows together, gave the man an exasperated look, and shouted, “WHAT THE FUCK…?” as he continued to walk away unfazed.
Then she turned to me and said, “what the fuck was that about??” To which I just shrugged and thought to myself, “how the hell should I know? You’re the one who sympathizes with them.”
After being yelled at by a homeless man about our manners (or lack of), I kind of had to wonder about my position in life. I mean, really, how bad are our manners if a homeless man is making comments?