I came up with the idea for this strip a few months ago: I was waiting at a traffic light and observed a beggar and his remarkable artfulness at panhandling, and of course I wondered (the way I always do when I see a beggar) what sad chain of circumstances could have brought that person to the street corner. Another thought that crossed my mind was, “But what if panhandling is that person’s job and there is no such thing as a beggar?”
Until that day my notion of the “beggar” was nothing but a cliche, a bland concoction of speculation, prejudice, and common belief. But cliches exist to be broken and replaced by something new. I realized that we are all expected to believe that a beggar is a beggar, but what if these people are hired by an agency that controls the street corners?
If that would be the case (like in Paffy’s case), the agency's terms and conditions might look somewhat like this:
Jazzperados Beggars Permit Application
Terms and Conditions
A $200.00 (two-hundred) application fee applies. The applicant must provide a valid photo ID and be at least 18 (eighteen) years of age. An interview will be scheduled to determine whether the applicant qualifies or not. In the rare event that the applicant qualifies, he, she, or it will attend a mandatory training course to learn the necessary begging skills. Syllabus: Naturalistic Acting 101, Contemporary Dance, Calligraphy on Cardboard, Make-up, Hair Styling, Minimalistic Speech, Yoga.
Upon successful completion of the training course, the applicant will receive the Official Jazzperados Beggars Permit, valid for 1(one) year. The agency will provide the licensed beggar with the appropriate uniform. A free street corner will be located and reserved. The agency will arrange for transportation to and from the assigned location, or otherwise provide ample parking space within walking distance from the location. Beggars operating hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM from Monday to Sunday. At regular intervals during the working day, a representative of the agency will visit the licensed beggar at the assigned location to make fake donations (in order to encourage potential donors) and to collect the proceeds.
At the end of the working day, the beggar hops into his, her, or its car – parked conveniently around the corner – and reports to the agency’s headquarters. The beggar collects the daily percentage, quickly changes back into “civilian” clothes (style: half-way between Ross and Macy's) and rushes home to the safe and pristine middle-class suburb where beggars have no business…
All of the above is just fantasy. But believe me, I sincerely wish it was not.
"Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform. Don't kid yourself." - Frank Zappa on Burnt Weeny Sandwich