I was walking out of my cool South Perth pad recently when a fella, probably no older than myself and dressed similarly (think very, very, very casual) was walking past me. I made some room for him on the footpath and suddenly he spoke to me, “Hey mate, can I have fifty cents for the bus?” I smiled and said, no. And he kept on walking.
I get hit on for money, constantly, and occasionally for drugs. If you knew me you’d find the idea of my hooking you up with anything vaguely pharmaceutical pretty damn funny. However, if I saw me, I’d figure I was some stoner that could help me out. I get it.
Clearly I look like some universal easy mark. I’ve got some aura that that says, “Want money now? Ask me how.” Not far from my place, there’s a guy who sits in front of the old telephone exchange building* who always asks me for two dollars. I always say, no.
I don’t want to give people on the streets my money. I have a particular charity that I donate to, monthly, and another that I will donate to regularly when I have the money. This is my business and I like the fact that I have some idea what kinds of activities my money will be going towards.
Mostly, I consider it the height of rudeness to be asked for money. Very middle class, sure. These are my standards. However, I refrain from the “how dare you” speech because even a polite refusal can often lead to a torrent of abuse.
I work in Fremantle, at creative hothouse Media Dell’Arte. Just recapping for those of you who just wandered in. Part of being in the port city is that you will probably get hit on for money at some point. Sometimes several times in an afternoon if you’re wandering around doing errands or shopping. It’s annoying, yet not endemic and scary like it can be elsewhere.
In refusing to cough up, I have been called a plethora of foul names. The drunken abusive shouting is the part I don’t like. However, once in a while you get a different approach.
A couple of years ago I was sitting, eating lunch in central Freo, when an old woman came up to me and said, “Hey, you know you look just like my brother, Scruffy? Can you let us have two dollars, thanks?” Yes, she was friendly and grandmotherly and the brother line had clearly worked in the past. But it was the choice of the name, Scruffy – which I certainly can be – that I found absolutely inspired.
I gave her the two dollars.
* The real identity of the telephone exchange building has been changed to protect the innocent.