The Homeless Dollar

I work a late shift, and am often leaving the office around 7pm, trudging up the hill to Union Station, or getting in a good city mile going the other direction to the New York Avenue Metro station and pretending that I’m healthier for the hike.

Either way, I always see a slew of the city’s homeless.  But, at the end of the day, begging is over and accounting has begun.  I watch them – clean and crazy alike – sifting through wads of bills and stacking piles of coins.  The one homeless guy I’ve spoken to more than most girlfriends, since I’ve passed him twice a day every day for eight years, once told me that he expects to make an average of $150 a day during the summer, and sometimes more in the winter.  Come December, he claims to be able to bank on $200 a day.  Which, considering it’s untaxed, undeclared cash, is more than I make.

I told him, well, it’s the hours that suck.  Ha-ha, right?  He shook his head.  Start in the morning, call it quits around six or seven.  Go longer if you want…but with over a hundred bucks in hand by the end of the evening rush hour, why bother?  “Pushing into the late night crowd is greedy,” he told me, “besides, I have to get home!”

I think it was a bunch of kids from Georgetown who, for a sociology class, spent a weekend on the streets.  Clean cut college kids on the streets of DC from Friday night through Sunday.  And each one of them walked away with about 0.  (And got in trouble for the fraud once the results were published.)

As a publisher, there’s no doubt in my mind that the current market to focus on is the as yet untapped Homeless Dollar.  These folks have a sizable, untraceable income and, with all that down time beside escalators and parks and street corners, lots of time to enjoy a good novel.

To that end, I’m going to develop a flyer for the homeless.  When next I suffer the endless, daily barrage of people with better shoes than mine begging for change, I’m going to hand them a flyer with pertinent sales information and an offer to pick up any of my titles at a 50% cash discount.

I haven’t yet worked out a plan to deliver the books to them.  If they have an address, then that’s great.  No problem.  Otherwise, maybe I could sell books through the homeless shelter on consignment.  I’ll select a few shelters in the area and, on the flyer, give the various locations where the titles are available.  Even if I give the homeless shelter 20% of my half price charge, I’d still be better off than when Amazon buys a copy from my distributor.  Plus, the 70% loss can be written off as a donation.

Not yet a perfect strategy… But one I’ll definitely be working on.  One thing is for sure – the only people with disposable income these days are the homeless street people.  How many of you can sit around at 6pm every day counting wads of bills? A day full of free sodas from McDonalds, and packed lunches from caring commuters, and gifts come Christmas time.  The guy who told me his average take gets gifts from the regular commuters every year.  A new boombox, classy shoes, a winter coat…

In fact…what the fuck am I doing working these no good jobs?  I could be on the streets, making more money, and taking expensive gifts from strangers.  And, unlike at these normal wage slave jobs, I wouldn’t have to suck cock or get fisted!  I could have it all just because I spent the day sitting on a bucket repeating a few key phrases over and over again, in between breaks for Mad Dog and reefer.

I certainly don’t get Mad Dog and reefer breaks at my wage slave job.  The only choice for me is ultra-processed Flavia coffee crystals and Lipton tea that was probably harvested while Thomas Lipton was still alive.

And before you tell me that it’s crazy and dangerous on the streets, I want you to spend a day in my office… I don’t think any of us would flinch if someone got into a running gun battle with Keanu Reeves out there on the floor.

There are two social groups in our office.  The people on The Floor, and the people in The Offices.  It’s like the 1960 George Pal version of The Time Machine.  The people on The Floor are the Eloi, and we office-dwellers are the Morlocks.  Except the roles are reversed.  The Eloi are the ravenous maniacs, clawing around on the carpet, waiting for their $90 daily Chinese lunch order to come in.  They’re the fundamentalists, the conspiracy nuts, the screamers and ravers.  During 9/11, when we were told to evacuate the building, the office people all fled while the floor people linked hands and prayed to Jesus Poltergeist II cult style.  Scary dead-faced old man laughing as the stone is pulled over their makeshift tomb…

The office-dwelling Morlocks are all sitting in the dark, vaguely clueless about the intimate details out on the floor, and accompanied by the sputtering sound of ancient machines.  In this case, the grumbling, clicking, clanking air conditioning vents that blow frantically, day and night, all year around into our tiny, dark offices.  Long ago, most of the lightbulbs were removed, so the only lighting is what we have on our desks.

Each office has two people.  A strict black-white policy.  One white person, and one minority of any flavor.  This is often cited as an HR policy, except HR is clueless that it exists.  The idea is to combat the idea that the white people in the office are privileged.  It’s kind of like bussing, I suppose.  The desegregation of the offices.  Except no white people work on The Floor.  Nor will we ever.  Thank god!

Anyway, here’s what I’m thinking for the Homeless Flyer:

Bored begging for pennies?  Help pass the time between commuter shifts with one of our spectacular titles!

Or something like that.  And I could include blurbs from homeless people:

A fantastic read!  I could barely put it down in time to work the lunch crowd outside Julia’s on 14th and K!

Enthralling!  Enchanting!  A tour de force! Would you like to buy an umbrella?

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