Walking to the Metro from The Brickskeller in Dupont Circle over the weekend, I witnessed a woman quietly attempting to sell Street Sense newspaper. It was after midnight, an unusual time to sell newspapers, sure, but certainly some people become more charitable after a few drinks.
Not the four young men walking directly in front of us, one of whom absolutely flipped out at this lady, screaming at her to “chill the f@%& out,” among other disparaging remarks. Disregarding the humor of the mixed message sent when someone screams about calming down, this really bothered me.
We all stereotype in our head, it is unavoidable. But it is important not to do so in writing, because it gives those thoughts in your head power when it’s often best to refute them. So I am not going to speculate on the econo-socio status of these men. But they were loud, hammered and obnoxious, yelling ugly things at women and walking into garbage cans.
I’ve seen all that before in Dupont; alcohol knows no class even in this tony neighborhood. But the prospect of these men later reminiscing about the time they scared senseless an older woman selling newspapers shook me.
The “Street Sense” papers are $1 and worth an occasional read, especially for an eye into the world of the less fortunate. The poetry is nice, too.
But most impressive is the strict code of conduct vendors operate under. They are respectful, never panhandle, and generally add something positive to the city’s vibrant street scenes. One of our local vendors, Conrad Cheeks, has a wonderful singsong voice; it doesn’t seem like a nice evening if you can’t hear “Streeeeet Sense” reverberating though the alleys. Of course one would never know that if one’s first response was to scream expletives at vendors, who for the most part, already lead tough lives.
It is easy to be unbecoming after a few drinks. But fellas, verbally berating a Street Sense vendor is downright nasty and sets a terrible example for us as a city. If you don’t want to buy anything, a simple “no, thank you,” or even outright silence, will suffice.
It would have been easy (and probably foolish, as I lacked back-up) to offer a retort like “Go back to Ballston” to these people; I am thankful I didn’t. But it sure would have felt great to ask these guys to be respectful to fellow humans. And not doing so is something I regret.