First, you get a paper cup. Can be any paper cup: sturdy, little bit deep. Krispy Kreme — Starbucks if you can find one.
The cup should be white and clean as you can keep it You want to look clean .
Find a good place to sit — not so close to others. Street crossings are best. Don’t look too anxious. In fact, un-eager. Like you don’t want the the money.
Keep your chatter soft-peddle. Don’t explain, just beg. And plead.
– Please, mister. Please
Maybe the passerby didn’t realize he’d missed the chance to give you money. Have the cup follow them as they pass by. And plead.
– Mister. Mister. Please, mister
No! Well, follow them. Try to keep you whien to two words or so.
– Suh, please. Suh. Suh. Suh. Suh.
But don’t chase. you may look too eager. Have a sit. Rest. Wait for the next one. Don’t want to look like a Corner Boy.
Corner Boys roam the street hoping to help people park cars. But not really. The want to be part of the parking process. Standing closely in front of cars and wildly waving their arms.
Turn. Turn. Turn some more.
– Few rand, please. I’ll watch you car. Watch it all night. Few Rand, please. Nothing happen to your car, suh. Few rand, please.
The most energetic, the quickest, the most demonstrative are the Homeless Men. He howls in indignation at his plight. He captures a pair of Security Guards on the sidewalk and start explaining his story. Windmilling arms — one hand pointing to Jesus, the other pointing down the street.
One Security ambles away. The other Security smiles, pushing his hands in this pockets and listens with resignation. Today, like all days, is a long day.
Security has nothing better to do. Nothing else to do at all, really.
Apartment Doorman listens but doesn’t lean in. But for his Doorman cap, he’s dressed just like the Homeless Man. His shoes are in tatters and his trousers are filthy.
If I was getting mugged tonight — in what they say is a quiet, safe suburb of Johannesburg — I have no idea if Security or Doorman would be on my side, or the mugger’s. Or if they would be the mugger.
So went our first night and day in South Africa’s largest city. We’d just travelled 19 hours by plane — over an ocean! — to vacation in The Bronx.