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Treading the thin line that traffic will bear

March 11, 2016
Panhandler with a cigarette is almost as offputting as a homeless person with a laptop.

Panhandler with a cigarette—as off-putting as a homeless person with a laptop?

Squeegee kids are so…last decade, don’t you think? But what I saw this morning, while I munched my McBreakfast, was close.

A member of Generation Y (as in “Y did I even get up this morning!”) was doing his slouchy best to panhandle the traffic in the westbound lane of the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue.

Any takers...anyone? Come on, I'm dyin' here!

“Any takers…anyone? Come on, I’m dyin’ here!”

Over the years I have seen several intersection panhandlers make a point of walking amongst the cars stopped at a light. But that is the very definition of “solicitation of a captive audience” as prohibited by British Columbia’s Safe Streets Act—the law passed in 2004 to (as much as anything) do away with so-called Squeegee Kids.

This fellow wasn’t approaching the cars or trying to talk to the drivers. His routine involved simply pacing back and forth along the centre median, while brandishing a small slip of a cardboard sign so that drivers could see it.

Starting where the median ended at the crosswalk, he waited for the westbound cars to stop at the red light and then he began walking east along the median.

He walked slowly, pausing occasionally. He made it about seven car lengths before the traffic light changed to green. Then he turned around and trudged back to the crosswalk. He did this slowly enough so that by the time he was back at his starting point, a new batch of cars was waiting at a red light and he could turn around and start walking east again.

Trudge...trudge...trudge.

Trudge…trudge…trudge.

His half hour of half-hearted effort wasn’t a total loss. The drivers of three of the cars that stopped at the light rolled down their windows for him. Two were commuters in sedans and one was a Vancouver police officer in a black Dodge Charger police cruiser.

The two commuters each handed the fellow bills, which he took and pocketed. The police officer appeared to hand him a piece of advice, which he also took and apparently took quite seriously because he immediately picked up his backpack and skedaddled. Click the images to enlarge them.

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