June 27, 2009

The complex beggar

Begging is illegal in our fine little city, but members of our community don't take that little hiccup seriously, so a begging they go, often like you and me going off to a normal day job.

I used to encounter one chap, around thirty years old, give or take, a regular outside my office building and surrounds, and, by coinky-dink, a regular around my very own suburb.

Once, within a matter of days, I overheard him explaining to strangers - numerous times in the city street, and then in a very well known street near my home - that he only needed another 10 dollars so that he would have the 25 dollars needed for one night of emergency accommodation.

It's very possible that he wasn't making it up, and that by remarkable chance every time I walked past this man, no matter in the city or in my suburb, he just happened to have whittled down the gap for his 'emergency accommodation' by the exact same amount. Day after day. Every time I walked past. Weekday or weekend. City or suburb. Fυςќing amazing coincidence.

At least there was simplicity to his story. A straight narrative: "I need "x" so that I can pay for "y". I have already achieved "a"of my goal and now I want you to contribute"b" to see me succeed." Good solid stuff. Although, in truth, he did sometimes labor this simple riff, making it something of burden to the listener.

Personally, when a beggar begs, I'm not after bells and whistles.

A complex back-story has lost me long before "oh whoa, don't you feel so much pity for me and my staggeringly bad bad-luck story that you want to empty out your bank account?". Frankly, no.

Take last week, in a busy city street, on the way home from work:

Breathless beggar woman pounces, gushes out her story in a 12 and a half second rush. Okay, points for not wasting my time, that's good, but oh, what a story. "I had an epileptic fit on the train station and was robbed, now I need money to get home."

It could have happened. Sure.

But, she needed to put more thought into her narrative. Firstly too elaborate. Secondly, if she was already on the station concourse, as she claimed, where she allegedly had an epileptic fit and was allegedly robbed, it means she already had a train ticket and would not have been able to retreat to the street to beg. Well, at least not without first being fined for not having a ticket, and, therefore, not being able to get past the barriers to get to the street.

Walking into the McDonald a few minutes after her speedy story had been told and dismissed, there she was, suddenly totting a laden tote bag, purchasing two large drinks at a cost of just under $8 - enough for a couple of train tickets. Possibly not the smartest move if she likes to work the workers at the top end of town.

Clearly it was the end of her working day too and time to catch a train home with the rest of us.


  1. Yes everywhere they be. Once took one literally: told her to follow me and walked up to the station. She asked where I was going and I told her: "the station to buy your ticket".

    The stream of high decibel invective which followed stopped the locals in their tracks.

  2. Congrats Caz...