Posts Tagged ‘T’

Can somebody spare a dollar? PLEASE!!!

May 1, 2011

Dad once came home from work and told us about a woman he and a coworker had encountered on the streets of Kirkland, WA. She was crying, pleading for $9 for a bus ticket. She only needed that $9 to see her sick son, I don’t remember where he lived. Dad’s coworker told her to get lost and snickered as the two of them walked off. Dad felt differently. He said she looked so sad and scared. I heard that story when I was about 7… I’m now 26 and I’ll never forget how I felt inside: Angry at the coworker, very sad for the poor woman, confused at how no one would help her.

Is this really what Seattle is known for?

 In the 1990s, Seattle used to scare the shit out of me because all over the city streets, bums would approach pedestrians and beg, they’d sit on curbs and stink, you’d hear them getting jeered by naughty college boys. I hated driving into Seattle on Sundays for our usual Science Center trips because we’d always pass a dirty bearded man with a “Please Help, God Bless” sign. Sometimes we’d give him money from our car windows, sometimes we’d drive by like everyone else. I still remember that feeling emanating from the pit of my stomach: hot and knotted, embarrassed for complaining about not getting an extra scoop of ice cream, grateful for my little twin bed.

Last summer, I was at my favorite coffee shop in Cambridge, sitting outside with my laptop. The breeze running through my hair felt fresh, I had a new dress on, and somebody close by was making their baby coo. Suddenly, from nowhere, a shrieking voice yelled,

“DOES ANYBODY HAVE ANY MONEY AT ALL!? I NEED A NEW SHIRT!.. IT’S HOT AN’… AN’… THERE’S NO PLACE FOR THE HOMELESS ANYMORE!! …. PLEASE!… PLEASE!!”

His cries grew louder, he started sobbing in the middle of Cambridge on the common way. I stared at him like the other people who had been enjoying the sunny day until a moment ago. Finally, a man walked up to the pacing, upset young man and handed him what appeared to be a large bill.

“HOLY SHIT!!! THANKS MAN! YOU’RE AMAZING!!!… THAT MAN IS A SAINT!” He pointed at the man who was now walking away. The homeless youth sauntered off to hopefully buy a shirt with his winnings. I never thought of him again until last week.

The Boston city public transportation system is the hub for us lower tax bracket individuals to come and go without paying the ridiculous parking fees around our jobs. While many of us try to keep to ourselves, every now and then, we crash into one another by means of the trains jerking and breaking suddenly. Or, more figuratively by a common uncomfortable experience shared by a group waiting for a late train. Last week after leaving work, I opted to take the T home and save a little money. However, I’ve noticed what I save in money, I pay for through socially awkward experiences. On that particular night, I was waiting for a very late 1am train on the red line platform with ten other people when I heard a dreadful noise from behind me. Grotesque crying and moaning follow by a repetitious slapping shoe sound. I accidentally turned around to see a disheveled young man hobbling towards the platform with one boot in his hand and his right foot exposed. He was limping horribly and quickly, trying to reach the small crowd before the train took us away.

“DOES ANYBODY HAVE ANY MONEY?! PLEASE! I NEED THREE MORE DOLLARS TO GET TO THE HOMELESS SHELTER!! PLEASE, MY FOOT IS INFECTED! I CAN’T BE OUTSIDE!”

He was sobbing and looking around at each of us. The man caught my eye and I immediately recognized him. He was the young man from Cambridge! The very same! I recognized his tone and sobbing pleases as well. Was he still homeless from the summer?

“COME ON! PLEASE, ANYBODY! I CAN’T GO TO THE HOSPITAL BECAUSE THEY ONLY LET ME STAY AN HOUR, THEN THEY GIVE ME SOCKS BUT WHAT GOOD DOES THAT DO? PLEASE! I’M IN PAIN!….. COME ON!”

Sobbing and miserable, he laid down in the middle of the platform and cried out loud. A student approached him and gave him some money. The crying continued. I had no money at all, most people taking the T don’t have a ton of extra dough. But I felt nervous about what he might do if no one else gave him anything. Fortunately, I was saved by the approaching T and I left the crying man on that awful platform. Aboard the train, a couple of girls nervously laughed amongst themselves about the whole affair. I stared off, trying to regain some late night peace. The image of the crying man with his swollen foot didn’t leave me for a few days and sometimes when I was having a meal or laughing about something with friends, his image would reappear and ruin my attitude.

For Easter, Nick and I went to his family’s house in Princetown for dinner. Surrounded by sweet ham, homemade rolls and a savory salad, my boyfriend’s uncle and I lamented about having to utilized public transportation.

“You really encounter some crazies on the T, don’tcha?” He started. “Why, just last week I was on the T at Downtown Crossing when a man started screaming and cry on the train. He was saying something about his foot being infected.”

I was stunned. We both saw the same man! He was really making the rounds!

“He kept it up for a while and just as a buddy of mine reached into his wallet, a stranger yelled, “Don’t give him a fuckin’ thing! He’s been doing this act for the whole week! He’s faking!” And the weeping man shut up after that! He walked off the T at the next stop. You really can’t help anybody, they’re all actors,” the uncle concluded.

“Wait, he just walked away? No limping?” I asked.

I for one appreciate the honesty!

“Nothing, he walked away perfectly fine. He was acting,” claimed Nick’s uncle. I was annoyed…. and very angry. I had felt so badly for this “bum” with his plight seared into my brain for the past week but everything had been a sham. Who’s to say who’s a real bum and who’s an actor? Was the young man acting last summer in Cambridge too? He made some very compelling arguments if he truly was an actor.

Yesterday, I was shopping at the smaller Whole Foods in Cambridge when I was greeted by a man at the front door.

“Spare Change for the homeless. Remember us on your way out,” he said, holding up a newspaper advocating for the homeless and services for them. When I concluded my shopping (I was making bacon-wrapped scallops and sweet chili pork chops for dinner!), I started to drive off, passing the Spare Change man. But I stopped. I had just been paid, so why not give him a couple bucks? I got out of my car and gave him some money in exchange for the newspaper.

“Thanks hon, have a good day!” He smiled and I walked back to my car. As I drove off, I noticed the man pull out a BlackBerry phone and make a phone call. WTF. Wasn’t he homeless? Where did the nice phone come from? Maybe he was a writer for the paper? God, I hope so! It was just a little ridiculous to have someone begging for money with one breath and talking on a BlackBerry with the next breath. Which leads me to wonder, are all bums frauds? Actors and swindlers? How can you tell if you’re providing food for a homeless person or simply funding an actor’s ticket to California?

April has left me jaded towards beggars.

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It’s the most wonderful time of year: Tax Season

January 26, 2011

For the year 2008, I was a teacher in Maryland and working part-time at a wine bar; I received nearly $1,200 back from my taxes. Pretty awesome, right? Well, imagine my surprise when I received only $88 back from my 2009 taxes! I worked at four places in Boston over the course of my first year here and I made significantly LESS money than I did in Maryland. But honestly, that wasn’t even the worst of it. The most challenging thing about filing my taxes was the actual filing process.

My “full-time” job was at a fine wine shop where I occasionally had to conduct cashier duties. Some of these duties included the dreadful sale of lotto. Lotto is an activity wherein shaking old people, local grocery store butchers and scraggly drunks try to win millions by spending their unemployment checks on pieces of paper. Members of the local government call it a “tax on the poor”, I call it a tax on the stupid. Anyway, one of the lotto frequenters was this elderly gentleman who looked like that crazy-eyed guy from Caddy Shack.

Just add about 50 lbs and here's our perpetrator!

He would frequently come in and talk about how his son would be perfect for me (although the kiddo was still in high school!) and how he had a great finance business, the usual. Well, it was time for me to do my taxes and I wanted to support the “little guy” instead of frequenting an H&R Block type of establishment. The elderly gentleman, we’ll call him Charles, kept talking to me from in front of the lotto machine – while scratching tickets – about how he would “give me a good deal” on my taxes. The kicker though was how he kept promising that he was a good guy and commenting on how the store manager knew him. What the hell does that mean? If I had any sense at all, I would have taken a hint from his money spending habits and crazy self-promotion. Honestly, I just wanted to get my taxes filed and put my money towards a trip to France. For some reason, I truly believed I would receive enough dough to travel! Dumb.

Charles and I met at a local Starbucks to speak about my tax situation. I thought it was odd that we didn’t meet at his office, but Charles said something about it “being easier to meet somewhere in the middle”. I worked two  minutes away from the Starbucks and he allegedly lived around the area. A bit confusing, no? Well, when we met at the coffee shop, Charles told me I would be receiving around $700 from my returns. Not enough to travel, but enough to pay off some debt and maaaaaybe buy a new pair of designer jeans! I gave up my tax stubs and Charles promised to be in touch. I held out my hand for a shake but HE KISSED ME ON THE CHEEK! This is when I started grossly regretting my decision to working with this ofe. How unprofessional! Shake my hand, you buffoon, I’m a working woman not a lunching lady.

My situation did not improve. Charles and I had agreed to discuss his findings over the phone and arrange for me to sign the necessary paperwork. However, for three days after our scheduled phone call, I could not for the life of me get a hold of the man! To be honest, I was scared. My private information, tax numbers and money was the hands of this lunatic and I had no idea where he was! I left several messages, emailed him and could think of nothing else. After nearly a week, I told the manager at my wine shop I was using Charles for tax services in the hopes that maybe he could help me reach Charles. Instead he said, “Oh no! Are you serious? That guy’s nuts.”

Great. I started to panic and had begun to think of creative ways in which to reach Charles, when he finally returned my phone call.

“Hey, Laura! Sorry, I’ve been really busy – enter some lame excuse -,” he stammered. I snapped at him. I told him I wanted to see him immediately and he needed to bring all my tax papers as I wanted to “look at them”. We agreed to meet at my place of business not only because it was convenient but because I didn’t want to be alone with the loon. He came into the shop the next day and tried to be sweet with me; I wasn’t having it.

“Did you bring my taxes?” I inquired, and walked from around the counter. No kisses this time, pal! When I saw that Charles had my file and I told him I was taking my business elsewhere. “I haven’t been able to get ahold of you for nearly a week and I don’t feel comfortable allowing you to handle my finances anymore.” I snatched the paper work out of his hands and thanked him for his time. He had drawn all over my legal documents with red, blue and green ink!

All over my taxes!

“Why did you do this?” I demanded. Charles fumbled out a response about just checking his math… all over legal documents!  Again, I thanked him for his time and told him I was taking my business elsewhere. Charles had a fit! “Well, you owe me for all the work I’ve done!”

“What work have you done? You’ve just colored on my tax documents and haven’t returned any of my phone calls!”

“W-well, I wrote down these notes,” he said, referencing a paper half-full of chicken scratch. Half of the notes were from him trying to figure out if I had insurance or not. “You’ll probably only get back a hundred bucks.”

I handed him back the rubbish and maintained a strong grip on the folder of my taxes. I then reminded him about how he had originally said I’d receive around seven hundred dollars. He denied EVER saying that but the damage was done, I was over Charles and his shenanigans.

“Fine! Well, I need to-to look in the file… to make sure I didn’t leave anything in there.” Fat chance, pal! I told Charles there was nothing more in my file for him and again, thanked him for his time. He bumbled out of the shop in a huff but I didn’t care, I had my documents back! I’m sad to say the lesson I learned was to watch who you trust with your finances. I honestly wanted to support a local business man but I nearly got dooped!

So, go to H&R Block, people, or if you can manage, complete your taxes online. I didn’t receive my $700, I didn’t even receive $100. After paying both the H&R person for his services and Taxachusetts for letting me live here, I came away with $88. Please, be wary of who you give you information out to; I learned this the hard way. Maybe you won’t.