As everyone in New York (and, um, the rest of the world???) knows, if approached by a panhandler you simply avoid eye contact, ignore the request and keep moving.
Hell, it doesn’t even need to be someone asking for money…directions? Help? The time? Endangered child? Escaped tiger? It’s all the same:
1. Avoid eye contact
3. Keep moving
Manhattan school children learn the mantra right along with stop, drop and roll. It’s just second nature.
Which is why your first few encounters with panhandlers (and there will be many) in San Francisco may be incredibly unsettling. Panhandlers in San Francisco are accustomed to (a) people being nice and (b) having the right to do whatever they want – including asking you for money.
So the normal tactics don’t work here because panhandlers simply think you didn’t hear them. They’ll raise their voice, follow you down the street and even (shudder) touch you! Yes, panhandlers here will actually touch you to get your attention if you ignore them. And unlike Giuliani/Bloomberg’s New York where homeless people are put to death for even blocking the path of the gainfully employed / showered citizen, it’s evidently not against the law for panhandlers in San Francisco to gently touch you.
But don’t fear, after many months I have devised an innovative and foolproof (albeit counterintuitive) method for avoiding the harassment of panhandlers in San Francisco. When asked for money, pause, look the assailant in the eye and say “sorry dude.”
I know it sounds crazy, but it works:
2. Eye contact
3. “Sorry dude”
The panhandler will shrug and walk on. It’s seriously like magic and it will blow your mind.