Panhandling Columbia Style
Yesterday, I found myself with about an hour to spare in between appointments in Town Center. Since it was so nice outside, I grabbed a bottle of water from Starbucks at the mall and sat down at one of the outside tables facing the plaza in front of LL Bean.
Before long my attention was drawn to a young man (late twenties) sitting on one of the yellow metal benches closest to the Starbucks patio. He was sporting a tight knit blue do rag and smoking a cigarette. His son, approximately 4 or 5 years old, was playing on the rocks around the fountain (kids love those rocks). The father was panhandling, somewhat covertly.
I watched as he selectively targeted his marks. His eyes were always darting back and forth between the mid day crowds in the plaza and the mall entry doors behind him. Young women were always asked and the response he recieved was mixed. I saw one young woman give him money and I saw another give him a short lecture about not supporting peoples drug habits.
He also targeted young men who were by themselves. Again his success was rate was about 50% but I didn't see him get any lectures. The men who didn't give him money just passed him a digusted look and kept walking.
He never bothered moms with strollers and he stayed clear of couples and people over 55.
Even more interesting was the fact that while he was doing this, a mall security guard was sitting in the mall security SUV at the foot of the plaza. The guard never caught on to what was happening.
After awhile the young man collected his son and left, somewhat richer for his afternoon in the LL Bean plaza in Columbia's vibrant downtown.
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