Irritating: The Subway Panhandler Who Forces Everyone to Smile

Today I had the pleasure of, again, encountering the Irritating Panhandler Man on my way home on the N train tonight.

“Excuse me, excuse me everyone. I’m a soccer coach — I’m not a drug user! I’m raising funds for the team. Heehee. Some of ya’ll recognize me, I can see it. You know why? Cause this is my favorite train – the N train. N is for Nice, here in Astoria. Right?”

(Awkward pause, as if he’s anticipating applause.)

“Yep, so alright: It’s me! Now, if you don’t want to give me money, all I ask you is give me a smile. That’s right: a smile! I especially love the smiles on the purty faces!”

Then, Irritating Panhandler Man slowly makes his way through the subway car, stopping at each person, demanding that, if they can’t contribute to the soccer team, that they at least give him a big smile.

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do well in these situations. Last time, I didn’t smile, I stared. I’d like to think I scared him a little bit, even if he kept urging me to smile. “You got lots of things to be happy for, girl…” he told me, before finally giving up and urging the person next to me to smile.

This time, I got to my stop before he got to my seat, but I still had to come up with several plans of action if he did reach me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my iPod on, so I couldn’t feign ignorance (that’s the reason locals wear iPods on the subway) to his cause. I decided I’d just stare, again, blankly, as if I didn’t speak English, a totally plausible excuse in Astoria. I could pass for Eastern European. Or a Canadian.

But, the train was efficient and beat Irritating Subway Man at his own game. I didn’t have to smile! Or give him money!


(I wish I had a tally of every time someone in NYC asked me for money.)

11 thoughts on “Irritating: The Subway Panhandler Who Forces Everyone to Smile

  1. FIL Bob says:

    Charlie LOVES Maddy and her food and her bed and her toys and her litter box. Maddy is in no way impressed by this love so this is out of my hands. Now, just send me the $15..and a big smile.

  2. dregina says:

    One of my #1 pet peeves is being asked to smile, or told to smile, by men I don’t know. This happens a lot in Texas – they don’t ask for money, so that’s a plus, but many! strange! men! have asked for/told me to smile. The last time it happened I said, “Why don’t you tell that guy to smile?” and pointed at a nearby large, mean looking man. What I really want to say is, “I’m not a dog, I don’t do things on command,” but I think that’s just too Yankee a comeback. I realize these are nice Southern men trying to be friendly, but Jesus H., I’m not living my life as a pagent contestant.

  3. Eric says:

    Great story.

    You need the A train experience, not as “friendly” or funny.

    Although there was this one time when some dude says “I have 11 kids I need to feed” and a business guy replied “last night it was 13.” And the panhandler goes: “Yeah, several of ’em died from starvation… now shut up you’re ruining my gig here!” LOL, coincidentally they ended up publishing it on that overheard in NY column in the AM so I guess I’m not the only who thought it was funny.


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