Don’t Bother Me

I’d like to say a word about the hawkers who stand outside my office, and other hawkers throughout the city of Boston. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll use a couple of definitions. The first, for the noun “hawker”, is: “one who takes a militant attitude and advocates immediate vigorous action.” The second, for the verb “hawk”, is: “to offer for sale by calling out in the street”. I’m lumping into this group a number of rather annoying twits I have to deal with on a daily basis: people with petitions; people with newspapers; and homeless people begging vociferously for change.

First, the assholes with the petitions. There is a group of younger men and women in yellow shirts who stalk people up and down the sidewalk in front of the Boston University buildings on Beacon Street in Kenmore Square. They assault anyone who comes within five feet of them, asking “Sir, can I have a moment of your time,” paying absolutely no attention to how fast a person might be walking, how encumbered they might be by various packages, and absolutely no attention the scowls or dirty looks on a person’s face. No, they’ll assault you even if you make a point to walk out onto the street to avoid them. Believe me, I’ve tried.

There’s also this woman screaming about violence against animals at North Station. I hate her, too.

Second, the assholes with the newspapers. Probably because circulation is so far down, it seems as if every major (and minor) newspaper in the city now has people hawking their papers. Sometimes they’re free, sometimes they’re ridiculously discounted, and sometimes they include “Red Sox-Yankees rivalry” posters, or other such incentives. These people, like the assholes with the clipboards, will stick their shit in your face the moment you emerge from the subway. They’ll shout at you as you pass them by if you don’t pay them attention. And you swear that some of them are probably ready to inflict physical violence after a long day of being ignored by annoyed people like me, realizing that what they do is an essentially useless and fruitless task and, subsequently, that their lives are barren of all meaning.

Third, the assholes with the coffee cups screaming at me for spare change. I understand that there is a homeless problem in this country—believe me, with our financial situation, I am acutely aware of how easy it is to become homeless—but there is a dignified way of handling yourself and there is this shit. There’s one guy who sits there quietly with his cup and doesn’t say a word to you unless he’s spoken to—him, I respect. But the others, the ones who yell at you, who embellish their life stories every time you walk by—the ones who are attempting to market themselves—they are the fucking limit. I can’t stand those people.

The tie that binds these three groups together is that their aggravating advertising of themselves or their causes is unsolicited. Like spam delivered by email or postal mail, these people are inundating passersby with messages they have not asked for. It’s a waste of their efforts, and a waste of our time. If I want to be sold to, I will seek out people who will sell me things. This is why we have malls, websites, and charities. If I want to sign a petition for something, I’ll go find its website, or it’s phone number. If I want to buy a newspaper, I’ll go to a newsstand. Or, more likely, I won’t buy it—I’ll read the fucking website, which is free. And if I want to support the homeless, I’ll volunteer at a shelter or I’ll contribute to a charity. Or I’ll give to the quiet guy, the one who understands.

In the end, what I’d like is a world we’re we aren’t bothered by things we don’t want to be bothered by. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.