Subscriber Services Weather

Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, October 30, 2006

Free kicks in the teeth!

I am a suspicious person by nature. I don't mean suspect, though some folks might disagree. I mean I am suspicious of some strangers, because I can't figure out what motivates their actions.

And see, that's part of the problem with suspicious folks like me. Sometimes we're unwilling to accept that there is no ulterior motive, that sometimes people are nice, or friendly, or good, just because they are that way.

Those people who feel genuine, who talk good sense to me, those people I know - whether through friendship or mere acquaintanceship, and those people I've had a chance to observe over a reasonable period of time, I trust. I trust that when they do something nice, friendly, etc., it's 'cause they're nice, friendly, etc. And I trust that when they're not so nice they're also just being themselves.

I'd love to blame my suspicious nature on living in Miami. But my old friends will tell you I've always been this way.

The guy who hit me up on the sidewalk for a buck? I was the guy in college who gave him a stamp and an envelope instead and told him to go mail someone a job application. What can I say? I was a part-time jerk. To be fair though, I was young and had not yet fully learned the definition of compassion, as the recipient or the giver. And I was a little bitter, 'cause all through college I worked 50-plus hours per week to pay my tuition and bills. So anyone asking me for even half a penny would've gotten 'tude from me.

Anyway I rambled on about all of that so I could work up the nerve to admit this afternoon I found myself sitting with my laptop in front of a television. And Oprah was on.

It was the start of her show and the camera panned crowd of would-be audience members lined up outside Oprah's studio at the buttcrack of dawn. Suddenly from across the street, this guy showed up offering free hugs to the crowd. He held up a sign that read "Free Hugs." And people hugged him. Please watch - Oprah showed this video to the audience later in the show - and I'll meet you on the other side:

So there you have it. The guy in the crushed velvet blazer told Oprah that he moved back home not so long ago, only to find his friends and family moved away (were they hiding from him?). So to fill the void, he made his sign, posted up in a public place, and began offering hugs.

Am I the only one who thinks this guy is a nutjob? If some guy walked up to me and offered to hug me, I would cross to the other side of the street. And if he persisted, I'd be inclined to clock him like Popeye. And no, that's not homophobia. It's strangerphobia, and nutjobphobia.

I asked my wife later what she thought, and, of course, she thought it was a sweet gesture.

What if some guy walked up to your teenage daughters as they roamed the mall and offered to hug 'em? Or your wife, or girlfriend, or your elderly frail mother? Ladies, same goes for a strange woman offering to hug the men in your life...for "free."

No dice. This is looney.

You got hugs? Unless you're a supermodel, I got restraining orders (or tasers, if necessary).

Besides, even if you are a supermodel you probably only want to hug me so you can slip me a drug and steal my kidney.

Did I mention that I am suspicious? Still, the kidney possibility is on the house. I saw it on Nip/Tuck.

Anyway, if you too are a dude in a crushed velvet blazer with mutton chop sideburns - actually, if you're a dude period, who isn't friend or family - keep your hugs to yourself. And don't even think about holding my hand.


  • Thanks for the tears and laughter. I'm off to find a piece of posterboard and a sharpie.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 8:29 PM  

  • "buttcrack of dawn" ... OMG, you are learning, grasshopper, yes, you are learning Manolaspeak! :-)

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 8:56 PM  

  • The guy may be a nutjob, but he's the kind of nutjob we need. Yes, I am often cynical, and these days am veering toward misanthropic, but I think what he was doing was cool.

    But if we meet, James, I promise to greet you with a manly handshake and not a hug, okay?

    By Blogger mkh, at 10:05 AM  

  • I'm with ya James. A smile and a hello, ok. But a hug? Nope. Sorry. Those are reserved for friends and family. People I actually know and trust.

    By Anonymous Freddie, at 10:10 AM  

  • The only people with mutton-chop sideburns who should be trusted are the Flying Elvises, and since they're in Vegas I would be wary in your neck of the woods.

    ...and please. Crushed velvet blazers? That's soooo Morrissey.

    By Blogger QofD, at 11:48 AM  

  • You need a hug, my friend.

    You are either an actual jerk who is afraid of the alienation that comes with being your assh*le self or a sensitive guy who uses the assh*le mask as loser repellant. Either way, the world needs a free hug and you shouldn't automatically be suspicious of someone who wants to do that. Unconditioned human contact is sparse in this world and should be encouraged if it tends to lead to more human understanding, even if for only one millisecond.

    Just because you can't conceive of a positive motivation for this guy doesn't mean there isn't one. Stop projecting your own fears and prejudices onto this dude. His payment is probably the look on your face when he gives the hug or the feeling of relaxation in another's body as they hug back. A hug is usually non-sexual and isn't intended to lead down that path. Platonic hugs usually only take on a sexual tone when projected by a pervert.
    I know if I ran into one of my boys from home I hadn't seen in a while and we didn't "hug it out, bitch", one of us would definitely think something was wrong with the other. It's a deeper human embrace than a handshake and it shows deeper affection. We could all use a little more of that between us. That's the "currency" that we actually treasure.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 12:20 PM  

  • C'mon BD. Read the posting again. I said I was fine hugging friends and family. I never suggested it was fear of sexual intentions. I have more confidence than that.

    I just said I thought it was odd to offer to hug crushed velvet...with mutton chop sideburns.

    And Marc, if we meet, we can compromise with a man hug.

    See BD, I'm not a complete jerk.

    Besides, I recall a post from you several months back that you happened to be on the Broadwalk at the same time as my wife and I. I think it was during the July 4th fireworks celebration on Hollywood Beach. I don't remember you approaching me, introducing yourself and trying to hug me.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:32 PM  

  • My thought when I first saw it on Utube was....What an opportunity for pickpockets!

    And for me a hug from a stranger would NOT be comforting or comfortable and I couldn't even imagine "relaxing".

    We have personal boundries in public for a reason ( at least most of us ) and I plan on keeping mine up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:41 PM  

  • JB,
    I said I was on the Broadwalk on the 4th -- I didn't say I saw you. There were a lot of people on that beach, dook.

    Besides, a hug from me at that time would have been the equivalent of getting jumped by a big slobbery St. Bernard--uninvited, unexpected, sweaty, and slightly nauseating. Not the best way to introduce yourself to someone you don't know.
    Don't overlook the fact that this guy isn't giving unsolicited hugs--he only gives them if someone takes him up on the offer. No one is forced to take a hug, but for those who need a little non-committal enveloping human contact that doesn't result in a lawsuit or criminal charges being filed, it's nice to know he's there as an option. I'm sure the crushed velvet feels pretty good versus wool or other fabrics.

    Ask yourself this--if this was even a mildly good looking woman with an average body, would any man here have any objection whatsoever to taking a free hug?? I can't imagine myself turning down a hug from almost any woman that had most of her teeth and was foul odor free. I would probably draw the line on visible oozing sores, severe BO, or track marks. But I know I wouldn't be here debating whether she should give the hug away.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 3:55 PM  

  • So I guess lending him your cellphone would have been totally out of the question. I think the video seems out of place due to the timeframe. You put the same Jesus wannabe hippie dude in the same costume during the '60s with that sign and nobody would have batted an eye.

    Plus, this video was shot in Australia, not Chicago, as demonstrated by the Angus & Coote (2:44) and MYER stores within the video. Who knows what kind of hugging goes on down under. Besides, in America, when men hug, they always pat each other on the back three times. It's as if to say, "I'm hugging you, man, but I'm also hitting you." There was very little back patting in this video.

    I might also be a little suspicious if this were to happen in some of our bigger cities, but the spirit of this video seems to present it in a positive and harmless way.

    ps: regarding the buck-begging guy on the sidewalk, if postal rates keep climbing, soon it'll be cheaper to give the guy the dollar.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 5:27 PM  

  • Hey, BD, the pretty woman theory is no revelation. I admitted in the original posting (because my wife has a sense of humor, and I can admit that I am a man) that if a good looking woman - I said supermodel, but really do they exist? - tried to hug me and wasn't sizing me up for vital organ theft I'd probably let her, if for no other reason than I'd have a story to tell next time friends and I gathered during Happy Hour.

    And yeah, that whole St. Bernard thing doesn't sound appealing. Thanks for not hugging me.

    And thanks MB. I am not an expert of cracks yet. But one day...

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 5:45 PM  

  • Say no to hugs.

    By Anonymous og, at 6:16 PM  

  • you actually gave a stamped envelope to a panhandler. Evil!

    That's like the guy who asks another for the time of day: DAAAAAAAMN! Where you watch at?!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:58 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home