Thursday, February 12, 2004


Everyone knows about eBegging. Many internet sites are devoted to eBegging, or lists of eBegging sites, or reviews of eBegging sites.

As a joke one day I wrote the Help Dick Mac Live eBegging Page and posted it at GeoCities. Imagine my surprise when it started appearing on listings and getting (mostly negative) reviews. I have collected over a hundred dollars begging electronically in the past couple years. There have been some highlights in this experience:

One netizen used his PayPal account to transfer .02 US to my PayPal account. His email read: "I wanted to give you my two-cents, and I thought I'd send it in cash."

Recently, a netizen sent one cent through this blog site. No message was included, but I assume it was a "penny for my thoughts."

In 2003, a producer of the Montel Williams Show sent an email asking me to get in touch with her. I called and she wanted me to appear on the show to discuss eBegging. I asked the woman how much the gig paid and she said they pay nothing. I was incredulous! I explained in the MOST patronizing tone I could muster: "I have created a website where I ask you to give me money for nothing. Now you want me to do something and you are offering me nothing. Don't you see a problem here?" She agreed. I asked her to sing "I Am Woman" and I put her on speaker phone and she was kind enough to sing along with me. Nothing ever came of it, and I am reminded of the Jackie Kennedy School of Public Relations, whose motto is: "Grant no interviews. Endorse no products."

If you look to the right, you will see that I have a PayPal link that makes sending me money very very easy. I even accept credit cards!

Today's blog is not actually about eBegging, though. It is about F-begging. This is not an abbreviation for vulgarity. This is a style of begging I have seen perfected on the F line of the New York City Subway.

"Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen," the polite voice announced loudly enough for everyone on the train to hear. "You may have heard me before . . . "

Though none of the hundred sighs were terribly audible, every person on the train offered some physical display of dismay. Begging and busking on subway cars has become pretty commonplace. My favorite is the elderly androgynous blind person who moves from car to car singing Temptations songs. "Ain't To Proud To Beg" is the perfect busking song, and this busker does well with it.

This morning's polite beggar is more insidious. He boards the F train at East Broadway, the first stop in Manhattan, is relatively clean and well-spoken. His voice is clear and he is well-mannered as his schpiel continues: " . . . I was recently released from the hospital. I have been diagnosed with AIDS and I am very hungry. I have no food and I am homeless. If anyone can spare some food or some change, it would be gratefully appreciated." He then moves from one end of the train to the other. A young man hands over a small handful of change, the train pulls into Delancey Street and the beggar departs. Harmless. How can you complain about that?

Next stop is Second Avenue and when the doors close to continue the journey, a voice calls out:

"Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, you may have heard me before . . . "

A handful of people laugh out loud and the young man who handed over his change earlier looks up with his jaw dropped.

" . . . I was recently released from the hospital. I have been diagnosed with AIDS and I am very hungry. . . ."

Commuters are now hysterical with laughter. The beggar is dressed almost exactly the same as his compatriot who departed at Delancey Street and if his beard wasn't a slightly different color, you'd swear he was the same guy.

I thought about this, but there is no way that the guy could have gotten out of the subway and traveled from Delancey Street to Second Avenue and back into the subway on time to deliver his pitch again. This is a completely different person!

The new beggar looks a bit confused by the laughter as he continues his well-rehearsed speech: " I have no food and I am homeless. If anyone can spare some food or some change, it would be gratefully appreciated."

Verbatim! His rap was identical!

The generous young man laughs and shakes his head, the beggar moves to the other end of the car receiving no hand-outs, and we all look around at each other. When he departed the train at Lafayette, strangers actually spoke to each other! I have never seen such camaraderie on a morning subway car. These guys made everyone laugh, and for that I am grateful.

I wonder how many of them are working together and I wonder if they are making more money than me!