notes from the road

Do you have a dollar, do you have a dollar for me?

I’ve seen lots of homeless people asking for money in the last two years and I’ve had time to test out many different ways of dealing with them. Giving them money outright, ignoring them completely, taking them to fruit stores and buying them something or sharing any food that I’ve got with them. This last one, though I know is not water tight, is the one that I go for now. There are always people who need more that I can give money too but halving a sambo with someone whose a bit hungry will at least appease one belly. It also won’t offer any sort of long term solution and might actually reinforce the dependence cycle but it can’t be exchanged for drugs and sharing is caring right? Despite it’s shortcomings it is my go to plan – just hope you run into me on my lunch break.

Recently I had a run in which had me willing to abandon this plan entirely. It was with a woman who left me amazed at her savyness and entrepreneurial spirit. I was walking along the street when I first saw her coming towards me. Just a few metres in front she bent down to pick something up. I didn’t not see anything on the ground but in her hand she produced a chunky gold ring, and she looked at me smiling and asked me curiously if I thought it might be gold. I took it in my fingers and found on the inside rim a few punched in numbers – which was confirmation enough for me that this was the real deal (I wasn’t about to bite it as it was on the ground – I’m not that hungry for money!). She then told me that I should have it as it is against her religion to wear gold, and she showed me neck barron of all that glitters – and this was proof enough for me. I had just had an unbelievable stroke of luck. As I turned around and walked off wondering where the nearest police station is (In Oz if you hand something in and no one claims it within 3 months then it is yours – I have an engagement ring at home that testifies to it!) the women who was by now ten metres away yelled back asking for a little money. I walked back and we talked a little and it turned out she wanted something to eat – a kabab. It was about here that I realised that I had been played, but I was willing to pay up because it was a very good show. It really was an elaborate and brave way to beg. She would have to know the success percentage of the gambit and then analyse whether her average profit margins would make the ploy viable. Very impressive.

I couldn’t see any stores nearby, and  I only felt like giving baguette money so I put two euros in her hand and placed the ring on a nearby window sill for her. She was quite insistant on getting more money for a kabab though, so not wanting to disappoint her and lose two euros I took my two euros back and wished her well.

It was a very good show indeed and I was willing to pay for it but she needs to put a bit more work into sealing the deal.

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