Panhandling on Wall Street

Minn Post  |  Casey Selix  |  October 16, 2008

NEW YORK — Three days after the Dow dove below 8,000, three fairly fashionable fellows managed to make some money on Wall Street — by standing on it. They stationed themselves in front of JP Morgan Chase with a big "BAIL US OUT" sign and a spiffy hat for spare change. This corner across from the New York Stock Exchange, they pointed out, was where the money would be made on Wall Street this Columbus Day.  Little did they know then that the market would roar back several hundred points by the end of Monday, or that the gains would fizzle by midweek.  As photographers and tourists clicked and grinned, one of the street performers bounced on a pogo stick and another twisted balloons into odd shapes.  A third barked about their money-making plans.  My inner cynic couldn't help but compare the bouncy-bounce of the pogo stick to the stock market of late or the squeaky manipulation of balloons and air to toxic mortgage securities.  Are you stockbrokers, a tourist asked.

"No. We're unemployed."

Did you work at Lehman Brothers?

"No. We're unemployed."

See, these guys seemed too well-dressed to be just street performers.  At times, the hat sat on the sidewalk. At others, it was held out for dollars and loose change. I took the opportunity to lighten my purse of a fistful of coins.  After all, I hadn't come to Our Nation's Financial District expecting to laugh out loud. By golly, the panhandling was amusing. On Wall Street. Of all places.  Of course, the security guards protecting the NYSE weren't as amused. I stopped by to ask why so many TV vans and satellite towers were parked on the street.  Surely, they're not here for the street performers? "Morons," one of the guards muttered while nodding in their direction.  The guards have seen a lot more media on the street in recent weeks (looking for news and photo ops), but the "bail us out" buskers appeared for the first time Monday.