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John Hargrave: Homeless Marketing Consultant

"I have a slogan." I was on my knees in the grass, pitching Dave, who was still inside his sleeping bag at 4:00 pm. "Do you want to hear the secret to real homeless success, Dave? This is completely free advice, no obligation."

"Okay," said Dave.

"ABB. Do you know what that stands for?"

Dave stared at me.

"ABB. A: Always. B: Be. B: Begging. Always Be Begging. ALWAYS BE BEGGING."

My Treo 650 chirped, interrupting me. "Hang on," I said, touching on my Bluetooth headset. "Hello? Yes. Right. And have the Mercedes waxed, please. Okay. Yes. Thanks, super-hot wife." I touched off the magnificently expensive Treo LCD display and shook it for emphasis. "This is what Homeless Marketing Consultants can do for you, Dave. We can unlock your homeless potential. All you have to do is follow the simple ABB philosophy."

Dave stretched and yawned.

"Fuck, I'll do it," said a filthy man seated beside him in the grass.

"No, this offer is exclusively for Dave," I said. I like to be choosy with my clients, and the other guy looked like he had been sleeping in gravel every night for the last six years. Which, it turns out, he had.

"Fuck you then," suggested the other homeless guy.

"What do you think?" I extended my hand toward Dave, nodding enthusiastically. "Would you like to work together?"

"Okay," Dave said, rubbing sleep funk out of his eyes with a grimy forefinger.

After an hour of wearing him down, Dave finally agreed to this:

Dave didn't quite have the level of energy I thought we needed for breakthrough homeless earning success. On the other hand, he was just coming off a five-day bout of pneumonia. And it had rained freezing sleet last night.

"I was totally soaked, head to toe, no blanket," complained Dave, who's been homeless off and on for several years. "Standing in doorways, trying to keep dry." He rattled out a phlegm-filled cough. "You find ways to get by," he said, with the most despondent and lifeless voice that you've ever heard. I suspected Dave was clinically depressed, but wouldn't you be?

Still, beggars can't be choosers. Dave was my client now, and we had a job to do. "What are the most important three factors in stemming?" I asked him as we strolled along the Boston Common.

"Ah " ABB?"

"No, that's a different slogan. The three most important factors are LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. So let's try three different locations."

"Whatever."

CHURCH TEST #1: WHITE CHURCH

"Churches are good," I said as we approached historic Park Street Church, an evangelical church with a largely white congregation. The church holds great historic significance, as it was used to store gunpowder during the War of 1812. Located on the famous "Brimstone Corner," where passionate white preachers gave fiery Christian speeches, Park Street Church would be our first test of charity.

FIRST DONATION GIVEN: 3 minutes, 6 seconds

CHURCH TEST #2: BLACK CHURCH

Next we went to the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, which also holds historical significance as being the first integrated church in America, and the first church in New England to proclaim the Emancipation Proclamation. Many beggars believe African-Americans and other minority groups are the most generous givers, but apparently not in front of the Tremont Temple Baptist Church:

FIRST DONATION GIVEN: 10 minutes, 22 seconds

CHURCH TEST #3: CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

Finally, we set up Dave in front of the Church of Scientology, the institution that believes Dave is just a "thetan" requiring highly expensive "auditing" to free himself of "engrams" and "implants" that came from an alien named "Xenu" 75 million years ago. I just liked the irony of putting a sane homeless guy outside a building full of crazies.

FIRST DONATION GIVEN: 6 minutes, 40 seconds

"So there you have it," I told Dave as I rooted around in his cup for my 20% commission of the $2.33 he collected. "Next time you need some money, stick with the white churches. That's where all the money is."

"Are we done yet?" asked Dave, coughing up sputum.

"We are done, but never finished. Remember, Dave: ABB."

As I added 47 cents to my gold-embossed deerskin coin purse, I decided it was turning out to be a very profitable day. Oh yes. There was money in these hobos.

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