experiences

Why You Should Always Be Nice to the Homeless When Traveling

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Well, you should be nice to everybody all the time, but this just reinforced the power of pleasantry.

Over the last couple of years my faith in the goodness of others has been severely shaken. Traveling alone I’ve met lots of nice people, but also had enough things go badly that I’m skittish about interactions with others.

Vancouver streetWhen a homeless man approached us last week in Vancouver as we were about to put money in the parking meter right outside our hotel, my instinct was to distrust.

He asked how long we were going to be and told us that in the 15 years he’d been on that corner, they rarely policed the meters before 10AM (an hour from then and after we’d planned to leave). And if they did come by, he’d put a quarter in the meter for us.

He hadn’t asked for any compensation and seemed genuinely nice (I’m sure hoping we’d pay him later instead of the meter), but both of us were uneasy. Despite our unease we were pleasant to him and decided to risk taking him at his word (since the meter was $5 CAD an hour), rationalizing that it would be in his best interest to follow through in putting a quarter in.

Still, as we quickly finished breakfast and packed up, we were both anxious. Shawna headed out to the car while I settled up our bill, and when I got outside she was pointing at the cars behind us.

All of them had tickets!

When she had come out, the guy had told her “of course no sooner do I tell you that they never come by but they do.” He’d made sure to get quarters in our meter in time, but not for any of the other folks, because they’d “been jerks” to him.

So yay for his kindness! And for the power of being nice! Though Shawna and I debated all the way to our first stop whether we’d been naïve to trust him. What do you think?

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11 Comments

  1. danny

    January 8, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I think the lesson here is instead of gambling on a parking enforcement ticket and the possible actions of a stranger, just pay the meter.

  2. Rich

    January 8, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Respectfully, I don’t think your behavior was ethical. The city sets a price for parking on its streets, and uses enforcement to make sure that the fee has been paid. You conspired with the homeless guy to try to avoid paying the stated price for your parking, depriving the city of revenue. I don’t see how this is morally different from, say, him telling you when a garage attendant takes his restroom break so that you can time your departure to avoid paying for parking.

  3. alan

    January 9, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Have to agree with Danny.

    “As we finished breakfast…” You have enough money to travel around, stay in nice hotels, and have breakfast.

    Pay the meter. Help the gentleman as well. Be thankful for what you have and help those around you.

  4. Jay

    January 9, 2015 at 2:58 am

    I have no time to mess around with parking, I usually pay, and I usually factor in extra time, I am not interested in running out to top up the meter.

  5. Ted

    January 9, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Why cheat the city of the parking revenue you were supposed to pay?

  6. Joey

    January 9, 2015 at 5:45 am

    So wait, did you tip the homeless guy?
    I do agree with the other commenters.

    • Keri Anderson

      January 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Yes, we gave the homeless guy what we were going to put in the meter

  7. Star

    January 9, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Don’t see anything wrong. Who cares about the damn city.

  8. Heather @ pass the dressing

    January 9, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    This whole story doesn’t make much sense to me. Why not just pay the meter?

  9. Susanna

    January 9, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Two things. Pleasantry does not mean being pleasant, as you seem to think. It means little jokes, or inconsequential remarks in conversation (exchanging pleasantries). And second, I agree with everyone who says pay the parking meter ($5 is a lot? How much did you pay for breakfast?) AND give some money to the homeless guy. Consider yourself lucky you haven’t been living on a corner for 15 years, begging from strangers.

  10. Jane

    January 10, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    How nice of him to offer to pay your meter should parking enforcement come by! Knowing you as I do, it was a risk I am slightly surprised you took, but thankfully he did follow through with his promise to pay and you gave him the money you would have paid the meter. The meter attendant doesn’t care who puts money in the meter as long as it isn’t expired when they come by. How grateful I would have been for someone to offer to pay my meter fee when I lived in a city that had them!

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