Walking along the other day I was stopped by an old woman pushing one of those God-awful, plastic, checkered wheelies that seem to be all the rage with the geriatrics this side of the river. Well, the fashionable geriatrics at least. The not-so-fashionable ones still carry their plastic Lidl bags, with the handles tied together for maximum chic of course. I feel I must point out that my use of the terms 'fashionable' and 'chic' has been very loose indeed.
She stopped me anyhow. Rusty wheels grinding to a halt. A plastic Lidl bag poking out of the trolley, proving that some things never really do change.
'Spare some change for a cup o' tea 'luv?' she asks me.
I usually try to walk past beggars. Unfortunately, I don't usually succeed. It's this Goddamn conscience of mine; it really does rear its head at the most inopportune of moments. Usually when I'm being pestered by beggars. The term 'beggars' may not be very politically correct, but it is the truth. Even though I really do prefer not to use the word. Not because I feel it's wrong, but simply because I would rather not say it. I think I would rather live in a world where the situation would never arise wherein I would have to face, and subsequently re-live, such an encounter. Is that unbelievably ignorant and snobbish of me? It's certainly idealistic and naive. I'm not ignorant, and I'm not a snob. Ask anyone. Well, anyone who matters. The truth is that I am tired of people pestering me for money on every sidewalk in this city. It really has become so tiresome. Not that it was ever entertaining mind you. I don't think anyone has ever found being pestered for money to be an entertainment in itself. 'Ha Ha! That's hilarious! Honey, you gotta hear this guy. Ha Ha. Go on, ask her for a Euro! You'll love this. Go on! Say something "beggarly".' It's demeaning. That perhaps is my biggest problem with the people who stop you for money on the street. Perhaps if they did a dance, or sang a song, or even recited a poem. The proverbial 'singing for your supper' is oh so much more dignified than the scattergun approach most beggars employ. At least then, the whole ordeal may feel slightly more exclusive. That is, as a beggar, you're only asking for money from the select few of those who consider what you're doing to be worthy of payment.
'Spare some change for a cup o' tea luv?' I almost kept going, but the fact that it was an old woman made me stop. That, and the fact that I wanted to know just who these people were that thought it appropriate to ask a stranger for money. Indeed, just who were these people that needed money for a cup of tea? Furthermore, I wanted to know why the increasing majority of these people are also carrying bags of shopping with them when they stop you? Apparently, a cup of tea is more expensive than the packet of toilet paper sticking out of the Lidl bag tucked into the red-checkered wheelie. Well, in fairness, it probably is. And so, I turned to her and attempted to find out what may have happened in her life to reduce her to this state. Knowing I didn't have much time I decided to focus on what I was really wondering. Where were her children? Did they know she was on the streets casually asking passers-by for change? Was she receiving a pension? Considering the fact that Ireland does offer a reasonable pension to its senior citizens, I found it hard to believe that there could be a reason for the situation I was faced with. I didn't get very satisfactory answers. Perhaps she was actually an eccentric, fabulously rich old lady who decided to dress down and sport a wheelie for the hell of it. Perhaps. I doubt it. In truth she probably left with the couple of euro I gave her held tight in the palm of her hand and headed back to her empty home pulling her Lidl toilet paper filled wheelie firmly after her. Another day another dollar. Another day another beggar. Another day another problem facing our society. Maybe next time I'll tell you about the illegal Romanian women and their children that harass people as they board the bus. Funnily enough, they also seem to be a fan of Lidl toilet paper. Even more strangely, they seem to think that people who get the bus have change to spare. Darlings, there's a reason people take the bus, and as much as we as a society may try to fool ourselves, it has nothing to do with the environment.