I’ve done a bit of traveling and know I should share more. I have had some amazing experiences and some not so good experiences. Of each country I’ve visited, I could write for about as long as I visited, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll choose one place and one subject.
The Hustle in Paris
Paris is just like any major city when it comes to poverty and people looking for a handout. What stood out to me was how creative these people got. Maybe it was because I spent an entire week there that I saw more of how they do it than in other cities. Not sure. Regardless, the hustle in Paris was impressive and I’m going to share them with you from lease impressive to “wow, I can’t believe you tricked me!”
Well, nothing new here. There are people asking for money in every town and village in the world. One thing I did find was how friendly the French beggars were. Sometimes, I was happy to see a guy holding out a Styrofoam cup looking for change. They gave great directions!
One thing that did surprise me was the amount of Muslim woman begging. It never really dawned on me how most beggars are men until I was in Paris and saw these poor Muslim women.
Now I’m not here to make any judgements. I’ll just share my two trains of thought. One, these woman are out there on behalf of their husbands, or two, they were probably once married and lost their spouse. Either way, it’s tragic and I still feel very bad for these women.
As with all homeless people, I am always reminded how lucky I am to have such a loving family. Many are disabled or were just handed a bad hand. Had I not been born into a supporting family, it would be me out there with a cup asking for change.
This one you’ll also find here in the States, but more so in major cities. And for the most part, they’re honest.
There I was, walking along the street and some kid came up to me with a petition to sign. It was for deaf children or something, I can’t really remember. Anyway, it was worded in a way that said they’d contact me later and how much I could possible give. I put my info down and wrote $20. Then the kid demanded the money right there and then. I told him I didn’t have cash on me, that the form said I would be receiving information on how to give later. I was upset at being deceived at first but wanted to get him away from me as soon as possible, so I gave him all I had on me, about two Euro.
He literally grabbed me and tried to drag me to an ATM. I told him no and he kept pointing to the clipboard as if to say, “you promised!”
I should have known that the charity he was trying to get money for was a fake. The paper I was signing looked as if someone just quickly printed it, bad wording and all. It was even old and dirty.
A few days later a girl with a clipboard comes running up to me. “Are you American?” I guess my clothes and Latino look gave me away. I told her no thank you in as good a French as I could and kept walking.
Wasn’t going to fall for that again.
This one, I didn’t fall for but saw a few that did.
When I went to visit Sacré-Cœur (the most beautiful church I’ve ever witnessed) I saw this bracelet hustle. First, Sacré-Cœur is on this beautiful hill. They didn’t have escalators in the 1800’s so you have to climb. It’s a beautiful climb, don’t get me wrong, but a climb nonetheless. Needless to say, me and my crippled self had to take a breather or ten when climbing up or down the steps.
On my way down I took a seat to see the marketplace below. There were these guys running up to tourists and making bracelets on their wrists.
Here’s kind of how it went.
They would stop a group of tourists and compliment them. They would ask them to put out there hand. After fighting the original hesitation, everyone would stick out their arms. That’s when they started wrapping string around the wrist. They would talk to the tourist while they were doing this intricate weaving on their hands. After about two to five minutes of tedious weaving, the bracelet would be on tight and finished. Then of course they’d ask for money for all their work and what they gave you. Kind of smart, really. They make you feel they invested time and they gave you something.
Luckily for me, my face isn’t pale and hair fair so I just walked right by them. But everyone who has collagen deficiency (white folk), they are all over them.
Oh, and one more thing I noticed at Sacré-Cœur. There are musicians there. Again, nothing different in Paris than any other city. Musicians asking for money. That’s cool. But what wasn’t cool? They all played Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. All of them. Seriously. After about two days I wanted to grab their instruments and throw them into the ocean so they can join Jack and the Titanic.
The Golden Ring
This one was the best. As I was walking along the streets of Paris along the river Seine this old lady came up to me from behind. She told me that I had dropped something. It was a golden ring. I told her it wasn’t mine. She felt embarrassed and told me to keep it. I refused. She refused my refusal. And then she just left.
I remember walking away feeling so good. That a stranger would just give me something like that. Like a painting, I walked with my head held high in the wind, smiling, feeling that the world was better than I thought. That a poor woman would rather give me something to show me how nice she was than to keep it herself.
Then she came back.
Asking for money of course. I was’t carrying any cash. She just grabbed the ring from my hand and shook her head in disgust that I didn’t fall for her little dance.
I just kept walking. I also had a smile on my face. This time it was out of respect of the pure audacity this woman had. I’ve been around the world, and have seen and done a lot of things. But you can’t out hustle the hustle in Paris.