Dying For A Cigarette

| Friendly | April 15, 2014

(The light rail runs down Main Street on both sides of the median. The rail stations are located on the median between the rails. As I am waiting at the station for the southbound train, a man walks up to the station from the wrong side. There’s a barricade preventing people from entering the platform there. They want people to use the crosswalks, where it’s safer, so he is standing ON the northbound railroad tracks as we had this conversation.)

Panhandler: “Can you help me out with a cigarette? I think I can get around the system by asking from here. Ya see, the police gave me a ticket for $175 on the way down here and…”

(The police give tickets for panhandling at the rail station.)

Me: *I leaned over the barrier to look down the rail* “There’s a train coming!”

Panhandler: “Could you help—”

Me: “It’s right there! Do you want to get run over? Get the h*** off the track!”

(The panhandler dashes back to the sidewalk and seconds later the train rolled past. As soon as it was gone, he walked back onto the rail and up to the barricade.)

Panhandler: “Could you help me out with a cigarette?”

Me: “I just saved your life. I kept you from getting run over by a train. I think I’ve helped you enough.”

Panhandler: “But is that REAL help?”

Me: “If you asked most people which is more help, a cigarette or keeping them from getting run over by a train, they’d go with the ‘not getting run over by a train’ option as being more helpful.”

Panhandler: “Do you think it’s illegal for me to be asking for a cigarette from here? I’m trying not to get a ticket. I’m trying to buck the system.”

Me: “I think you can get a ticket for hanging out ON the railroad tracks. And you can get run over by a train.”

Panhandler: “I think… maybe I need to stop thinking.”

Me: “Maybe you need to start thinking.”

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