Most people who live in large, urban centers, or anyplace where the population has cracked 100 or so, probably have at least one hobo around town. And while the popular sentiment is that homelessness is a problem and we need to help, there's also the pervasive monkey on the back of every hobo: namely that they're a raving loon who thinks they have a monkey on their back. But this is just a stereotype and the fact is there are many stereotypes that deserve equal consideration. And thanks to the current economy we're all enjoying, the future of hoboing is brighter than ever. Thus, in the tradition of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, we offer you this guide to identify and catalog hobos.
The Ranter A popular vagabond due to their "look at me" style, the Ranter is the wastrel you cross the street to avoid and not just because of that stank. Indeed, on a warm summer's day, the Ranter may set himself up outside your favorite mall, one eye looking skyward while the other attempts to peer into your very soul and begin raving about how the government put arsenic in his oatmeal and those geese in the park are nothing but sodomites who talk about him behind his back. The Ranter's effectiveness seems to directly correlate to both how loud he can share a string of epic obscenities and how well dressed the people he wants to listen to him are.
The Entrepreneur No regular bum this, the Entrepreneur is the 'can do' vagrant of today. Not content to be like his begging cousins, the Entrepreneur has a get up and go that makes him wait at busy intersections with a scrap of newsprint and an old Coke bottle he's filled with water and hand sanitizer from down at the clinic. When he finds a potential client stuck at a red light, he springs into action by hobbling over and smudging the sanitizer-laced paper across their windshield in exchange for a few cents. And while this may actually make the window dirtier, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs and this drifter can't make your window clean if he's covered in his own urine.
The Millionaire Curiously, once a town gets large enough, the Millionaire inevitably shows up in local lore and will remain for many years. Potentially disguised as a Ranter, the Millionaire is just what his name suggests. He's stinking rich. At least that's what everyone says, because it's fun to believe when you're enjoying the lower middle class life, someone out there achieved their fortune and decided that instead of living in a mansion, living behind the KFC dumpster and wearing shoes made out of hardened discs of feces would be an interesting adventure to go on. This tramp never speaks of their fortune, potentially due to dementia or just snobbery, and will often be seen counting out pennies to buy McDonald's coffee on a Sunday morning.
The Epicurean Our dumpster diving friend the Epicurean lives the full on hobo experience the rest of us expect when not picturing drunkards fighting in an alley for nickels. While others will work or beg for food, The Epicurean cannot leave his palette in the hands of mere peasants and must take his gastronomic destiny in his own hands, which is to say he'll put pretty much anything in his mouth, from pizza crusts to those gristly knobs everyone leaves at the end of chicken wings. Easily spotted for being some of the dirtiest and fattest of hobos, the Epicurean says "yes I can" when reality says "Good God, you can't possibly eat that."
The Shell Shocked Beloved by modern children for his keen fashion sense as witnessed by his army green and camo wardrobe, the Shell Shocked vagrant is not to be trifled with. While he may present similar characteristics to the Ranter, make no mistake that, unlike the Ranter, our armed forces friend very likely could kill you six different ways with the rusted can of tuna he's been using as a pillow because the government trained him to long before he went mad. Lament the way he offered up his own safety and security to ensure ours, but don't be surprised if he salutes you with a hand that he's been keeping warm up his own ass and then attacks a dumpster because it's a stronghold for Charlie and delicious, delicious expired ham.
The Flamboyant Beggar This tramp has a future in marketing if he ever snags a fixed address and stops bathing in public restrooms. Not content to rest on his feces encrusted laurels, the Flamboyant Beggar wants you to give him money because you're moved by wonderment and amazement and not merely a desire to feed a drunkards love of Lysol laced Colt 45. Though he may be between jobs and houses, he's right on the mark when it comes to spinning soul-stirring yarns to elicit sympathy from shmucks like us. Is his leg made of wood? Maybe. Did he come to town from all the way across country only to be raped by an entire pack of pairs (not generally known to rove in packs) who then stole his wallet and his wife? Very likely. The Flamboyant Beggar will say and do anything to convince you that $2 will save his soul from certain damnation and a second bout of bear rape.
The Reserved Beggar The polar opposite of the Flamboyant Beggar, this bandy man wants your money but years of eating refuse, copulating with car exhaust pipes and fighting rats for primo cardboard living spaces have left him in a permanent state of not giving a shit about anything at all. He needs your money if he's to buy his next bottle of Thunderbird or a tasty tuna melt, but he's pretty much only going to sit in one spot with a soiled hat in his lap and wait for you to throw it at him as though he were a human wishing well. Is your wish to smell malt liquor and despair without a hassle? Then the Reserved Beggar is the itinerate layabout for you.
The Loose Stool In the world of film, the friendly drifter who teaches you a valuable life lesson is often scruffy and in shabby clothes. Rarely in this family friendly films do they mention he has feces clogging the bread bag he's using as a shoe. If they did, they would have to acknowledge him as the Loose Stool, the most exotic of all hobos. While many hobos come with an unseemly perfume, none take it to the extreme of the man who realized that if you have taco shits in your pants it'll help keep you warm at night and thus no longer seeks to actually stop doing whatever it is he's doing when he has to get Mr. Colon a-twitching.
The Genius Like the Millionaire, the Genius is a local legend of bumdom. While the average rover may tell you tales of the time he found a half eaten cheese sandwich just sitting on a bench, or a barely used pair of sweat pants just sitting on a bench, or he pooped right where you're sitting on that bench, the Genius will tell you why the ontological argument for the existence of God is a cop out and then ask if you have change for a bus. The Genius is reputed to have written novels in the past and/or have taught some super liberal course at the local community college before losing his wife and shortly thereafter his job, his home and his shit. Though it may be true that the Genius has some extensive knowledge base from which to help you better understand your world, never forget that he also hasn't had soap anywhere near his crotch in months.
The Un-Bum - Of all the off putting sundowners out there in the world, none is so harrowing as the Un-Bum. While the Loose Stool may frighten you with the threat of intense reekage and e-coli, and the Ranter seems like he may stalk and murder you, the Un-Bum presents the fearsome visage of normality. You could be the Un-Bum. You may even know the Un-Bum, some kid you went to high school with who's now sitting on a steam grate asking for change so he can get that next delicious bottle of aftershave. You'll be tempted to ask him what he's doing out there begging for change, until that voice in your head points out that if you ask, he may answer. Then he may recognize you. Then he may expect you to buy the whole bottle of aftershave for him. Then take him home. And now you have a pet bum. Fuck.
The Bag Lady Ahh, the Bag Lady, the sultry siren of lunacy found on street corners and immersed in dumpsters all across our fair land. Though she may realistically be any of the aforementioned hobo species, she is always set apart by the very nature of having lady bits. Creepy, unwholesome lady bits that may or may not contain cheese. The Bag Lady is like a wild animal confronted by a moron. It's enticing and alluring yet wholly and completely dangerous and to be avoided at all costs, for like a wild animal it may defend itself by releasing a foul stench or a tirade of filthy slaps and profanity. It should be noted that the Bag Lady exists as the best and brightest example of why not all boobs are awesome.