Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to Talk to the Homeless

I’m standing at a bus stop. A man, homeless, it appears, but well-presented, walks up to me and says something in Slovak. I shrug, and say “Neviem [dunno]”.

“Hovoreš Slovenčinu? [Do you speak Slovak?]” He says.

“Trochu [a little]” I reply, trying to make myself appear as unapproachable I can manage. This I do while battling my professionally cultivated habit of being as approachable as possible.

“Do you speak English?” he says, in very good English.

Bugger. He’ll never leave now. Think quick! 

“Yup.” I say. 

Crap. That probably didn’t work.

“Can I have two Euro?” he says. “I’m homeless.”

“You can have one,” I reply, fishing a small handful of coins out of my pocket, and separating two 50 cent coins from the pile. I don’t know what it says about my strength of character that my idea of getting rid of annoying beggers is to still give them money.

“Thank you,” he says. Here he presents his fist, extended at waist height. I look at it for a moment, then tap my fist against his. He smiles and says “You are a good man,” then promptly turns to the beautiful Slovak woman standing next to me.

Before he has finished saying his first word, she points to me with her head, and says “No. He already gave you,” in English.

“Oh,” he says. “Are you two...”

“Yes.” She says quickly.

He looks to me. I smile and nod. He looks back to the girl, then with a grin that says good job!, engages me in a congratulatory fist-bump, and walks away.

Now, if anyone every asks me “did you have any luck with Slovak women?”, I can say “Well, if a hot Slovačka pretending to be my girlfriend in order to avoid talking to a homeless guy counts, then I can confidently say: Yes.”