Saturday, May 12

Building Bridges

There is a street corner in Bristol where the Beggars and Charity Canvassers hang out. A corner I walk past twice a day. And a corner that I hate.

Beggars, for one, confuse me. My Christian upbringing tells me to help them, but the 'anti-drug flyers' around Bristol tell me ‘don’t’. Thus, ignoring them makes me feel guilty and giving them loose change makes me feel even worse! The only way I can avoid the guilt is to pretend I haven’t seen them, or to hurry past, avoid eye contact and mutter, “Srry mate.”

Charity Canvassers, although more annoying, are easier. Doing a similar job as myself I utterly detest them, and make fun of them whenever possible. This is remarkably easy; most of them open their patter with the same line (i.e. “Hi I’m Gary from Greenpeace.") to which there are at least three possible replies,

• The short and sweet - “Good for You!
• The baffler - “Really? What a coincidence! I’m Simon from Bristol.
• Or my personal favorite - “Wonderful! I had no idea you people looked so clean!

Any such response causes them to think and gives me time to get away. And I can generally make it home, past beggar and canvasser, largely unmolested and with a morally intact opinion of myself.

But yesterday it went horribly wrong.

I was walking past the corner, accelerating wildly so I’d be harder to stop, when a woman carrying an umbrella walked towards me. The umbrella is an old trick used by canvassers - they offer you shelter, numb you with pictures of starving Ethiopians and then steal your wallet. As such I had no intention of talking to her.

'Excuse me?' she said,

“No Thank you!" I barked out and strolled into the middle of the road.

Her words trailed off behind me, “Do you know the way to…?”

She'd been asking for directions; I'd brushed her off like a pushy New Yorker and she'd only been asking for help. I was halfway across the road before I realized what I’d done, and I had no idea what do about it. Should I turn back and pretend I hadn’t been rude? Should I carry on walking, ‘tutting’ loudly at the ‘bloody tourist’? Or should I shout sorry over my shoulder and run away like a schoolgirl playing kiss chase, making it difficult for her to get a positive ID?

Thankfully, the lights changed and I darted across the road.

I felt like a deserter; like an evil, bitter old man who hates foreigners, and spends his weekends at rallies for the National Front. And I went home that night with my moral righteous in a state of crucifixion.

If we meet again I’ll make it up to her. I’ve got it all planned out. Pacing past, staring at the ground, I’ll wait till I’m just in earshot. And then, avoiding all eye contact, I’ll wave in her general direction, and mutter, “Srry mate.”

7 comments:

This Eclectic Life said...

This is the type of post, Mr. Cynic, that remind me of why I have you listed in my "Blogging Family." You are funny, witty, and choose themes that hit a universal chord. Now, I've said that, and you will sneer at me. Go ahead. I'll come back anyway.

The Freelance Cynic said...

Thank God for that! Can you imagine how few readers I'd have if everyone I sneered at never came back?

Oh and *Sneer!*

Dale said...

I was discussing beggars with my friend last night and how bad I sometimes feel. I wish I'd had your article to quote from. Well done you terrible man.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I hear that beggars are even begging on trains these days. I suppose they need to beg so they can afford the fares. I liked your answers to the charity canvassers. Does it really shut them up? A lovely finishing touch would be to slap a sticker on them supporting some reactionary cause.

Ryan said...

i just wanted 2 stop in say thanx 4 your support it means the world 2 me!

sognatrice said...

Well I'm just glad you've planned ahead for next time. Wouldn't want you feeling like a bitter old man for too long.

Webmiztris said...

lmao! ooops!

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