After passing a beggar with his can, my friend asked me if I could give him a couple of bucks, and thinking it was for a coffee at the adjacent cafe, I handed him the money. To my amazement, he returned his steps and handed the money to the beggar. He then struck up a conversation. A good five minutes later, he walked back toward me, and I told him that if I knew it was to give out free money, I wouldn't have given it to him.He answered: "Here in America nobody talks to you. But for two bucks, I bought myself five minutes of conversation."Of course me being me, this was my favorite response and interpretation of the events:
It's just two liberals playing moral-superiority oneupmanship — first he with her, then she with us. That's why she's treasured the anecdote of the encounter. She lost the gambit to him, but now her sensitized self can preen (if the letter gets published, which it did) to the entire NY Times readership. And by freely admitting she lost the game to her companion years ago, she can present a false-humble self that gives her a couple extra points in the score. Plus she can parade her agreement with the popular trope that all-Americans-are-isolated-souls. In the moral superiority sweepstakes, isn't that what people call a trifecta?In this tale and it's fallout you've got reams of material for your dissertation explaining the old saw about folks pampering their own self-esteem with other people's money.