Fredericton — Capital city residents can rest easy — instead of feeling compelled to toss change toward a fellow human being on the sidewalk, they can now give to a shiny green post sticking out of the ground.
Kindness Meters, retrofitted parking meters recently installed by Downtown Fredericton Inc., are a means of cracking down on the city’s panhandling problem; the change is redirected from the people begging to whichever local charities are most in need.
“I honestly used to feel sick with guilt every time I’d see a filthy beggar holding out a battered Tims cup,” said downtown resident Mary Clark. “I’d be walking to lunch at The Palate, and pass this guy who sits outside the CIBC. He’d invariably be looking for a handout, and then act all pissed off when I explained I needed that toonie to tip my waiter. He’s so entitled.”
Recently, though, Clark said she’s been able to feel the pride of giving without having to actually look at the person benefiting from her generosity. “A meter was installed right next to that particular beggar. So I go up to the meter, put in a dime, and the meter reads ‘thank you very much for your support.’ The panhandler never thanks me — I mean, I’ve never actually given him anything, but I can just tell by his look that he wouldn’t even be grateful for that dime.”
Gerry Hart, a GNB employee, said he’s had a similar experience with a panhandler who sits outside King’s Place Scotiabank. “I think I’d be more likely to give the guy something if he’d get a new outfit, or at least wash his hair or something. He’s begging all day! Like, can’t he afford a new suit by now? The Kindness Meters look good, and if I’m being honest with myself, looks do matter when I’m deciding where to allocate my spare change.”
A Manatee reporter interviewed the panhandler in question, who said that since the meters were installed he’s been making less than half his usual haul, despite his impressive guitar skills. “I play music and people can give at their leisure,” said the man. “Leave it to these uptight government assholes to let my mere existence ruin their day.”
Mayor Brad Woodside said the Kindness Meters are just very “Fredericton” overall. “When people think of Fredericton — at least when compared to other cities in the province — they think of prosperity,” he explained. “They think of a shiny, pretty place free from the grime of say, Saint John or certain parts of Moncton. We’re also a green city, and we’re clean to point of being clinical. So, the Kindness Meters make perfect sense. We can finally get that gooey, lovey feeling that we’re making a difference, without actually having to look at a person who makes us uncomfortable and without having to really do anything. And I think that’s what really matters.”