The Snaggle-Toothed Vet on a Bike

The Barometer was leaving a church meeting when a bearded, hard-looking, rail-thin, snaggle-toothed man approached on a bicycle.  He dismounted his bike so quickly that he had to run with it until he eventually brought it to a halt.  He said, “I’m a Vet, I need $17 to make my rent.  I’ve got $12.32, so all I need is $4.64.”  The Barometer is a whiz with mental math, owing largely to years of homework with children who are addicted to calculators and can’t estimate worth a dime (or so). With that kind of figuring small wonder he’s short on rent.  The Barometer inquired, “Have you been to the VA Center?”  Said he, “I don’t even have enough money for gas.”  Wow — very agile with an explanation even if the math skills are lacking.  The Barometer pulled out a $5.00 bill, handed it to the Vet, and said, “Keep the change.”  The Vet, clothed in the high-waisted, narrow Levi’s of another era said, “How can I get this back to you?”  The Barometer was tempted: Go ahead!  Give this Vet your business card from Arizona State University.  A cooler head prevailed.  Nay,the poor staff members at the University would then carry the lion’s share of the work in dealing with the Vet and his new math as he worked to reimburse me.  The Barometer pictured the Vet playing some kind of “Paper Moon” con game with the staff using fives and tens and making change using the department counter for the fast-paced confusion his change con would create. The Barometer said, “No need.”  The Vet said, “God bless you, Ma’am.” Still the military touch.

The Barometer’s family believes the $4.64 or so went to meth, not rent.  The Barometer recalls the streets of Nashville where homeless beggars abound.  There, the city uses ubiquitous signs to warn you not to give to beggars.  The signs instruct you to put any noblesse oblige that overpowers you whilst visiting there in special boxes designated for the tender-hearted who cannot stand idly by as the homeless beg.  The city says it will use your funds to help solve the Nashville homeless problem.  In Mesa, Arizona, the local paper reported that a freeway ramp beggar made $60,000 one year, and that he only winters here.  When Arizona heats to London Broil, he goes north and does equally well in the seasonal cities and towns.  Not bad unemployment if you can get a good ramp.  His ramp is available for the poor dim-witted soul allowed the newspaper to snap his picture for the article.  Cars on the ramp began aiming for him.

This feeling of being torn between, “Am I fueling a drug habit?” or “Am I just helping a math-challenged Vet?” is powerful.  “Am I being duped?” or “Is this guy really willing to do odd jobs (with odd being the operative word)?” But, even if the Barometer’s donation went to the drink or some other vice, it is irrelevant.  Some have entertained angels unaware. The sin is on the Vet’s head if he indeed has abused the trust of those who care about strangers on bicycles.  Besides, what punishment is there for being gullible?  This trait is a negative only when the Madoffs and Stanfords of the world come calling and do indeed fleece you.  They have their math down to a science; they know exactly how much they want to take you for.  And they are easy to spot:  No Levi’s, cashmere socks, and matching sweaters.  The world can turn you into a cynic, but pity the heart so hardened that it cannot be tickled by a weather-worn man who offers a great story and several alibis for the rock-bott.0om price of $5.  Even if you are duped, this is great theater.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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2 Responses to The Snaggle-Toothed Vet on a Bike

  1. A.Helphand says:

    It is obvious that the people in question dont live in NYC or take the subway. The homeless vets (so they say) are a literal menace. No exageration. At the best the stench is so bad that the car has to clear out, at the middle they treat the train as a literal toilet. For all toilet purposes. And last bust not least they are dangerous. Yes I know they are mentally ill or high. But why do the people riding the train, hardly the rich of this world have to put up with this. Not going into different cases. This case you’re just encouraging extreme anti social behavior.

  2. mmjdiary says:

    Nope, we here out in the boonies of Arizona do not take the subway, but location was hardly the point of the piece: To think about everything from Vets to cynicism to our response to both. Because most folks ignore or dismiss them, you long ago won this battle. The end of their earthly sojourn will be sad, even as you are bothered by them.

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