Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Begging ettiquette?

I was a bit late leaving work, so I was jogging as a approached the bus interchange. Not flat out sprinting, but obviously running and (I thought) obviously in a hurry. I could see a few buses waiting and didn't know if mine was one of them. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone on a bike, and heard "excuse me?". I hoped he was talking to someone else and kept going. A young guy rode up beside me as I ran and said "excuse me, do you have a spare $1.20..." I think he finished with "for the bus" (though thinking about it later, that doesn't make total sense as he was riding a bike) but I replied barely before he had finished speaking, more with surprise than anger, "no, I'm in a hurry!". It was only a few more steps till I could see that my bus wasn't there yet, and after I stopped, I felt a bit foolish just standing there. But I think he had ridden off.

I don't quite know how I feel about begging in this town. I'm sure there are genuine cases but I also feel that there really should be enough avenues for people to get help if they need it. If you're not willing to obey anyone's rules in order to get your handout or your bed for the night, too bad. (Yes, I realise that often mental illness is a factor in homelessness and that can complicate things significantly). Sometimes I hand over some change, and mostly I don't. But that's not even really the point here. It made me feel similar to a few times when I've said no (and sometimes I really haven't had anything, or nothing I could give at the time) and the person gives you The Look of Death. My feeling is if you're throwing yourself on people's mercy by asking for something for nothing, you can't go acting like they owe you! Riding after someone who is clearly RUNNING for a bus to ask them for money is just rude, and I can't see how it would be a very successful strategy. I'm not going to choose to maybe miss a bus for you, before I've even heard your sad story. It's not like he even looked slightly desperate or hurried. Maybe he was just making sure he asked every single person around.

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