Dealing with the homeless is tricky and no mistake. I don’t know the differences between beggars, tramps, hobos and homeless people but if I had to define myself in relation to them I might call myself “hobophobic”.
I wasn’t always like this, I used to buy the big issue on a regular basis and I do still give “Tattoo Sid” a tenner at Christmas. But these days I tend to avoid getting into conversations, I tend to look away.
It’s not the smell or some fear of transmittable lurgie, it’s the not the vicarious shame and indignation that a modern day society can still allow people to fall between the cracks, it’s not that they keep dogs when they can’t even feed themselves properly or the fact they insist on drinking cans of super-strength Tenants when they are clearly not “tenants” of any kind. It’s not because they have perfected the inflections on “You have a good night” to ensure you’ll spend the next few minutes imagining the hardships they’ll experience with a lump in your throat. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the work that’s gone into “the unconvincing back story” or that they’ve taken the trouble to steal an old copy of the Big Issue which they cling to like tattered dignity.
And it’s not the fact that but for a few pieces of random luck it’s them and not me huddled under a wet blanket howling at the moon.
No it’s not any of these things. It’s worse than that.I am in a uniquely bad position at this time of year when it comes to dealing with beggars because they think I’m lying to them, they think I’m teasing them.Just before Christmas I noticed that i had a small hole in one of the pockets of my covert coat – just big enough to allow coins to fall through (You can see where this is going. I’m sure the penny’s dropped – so to speak). I took it in to the Dry Cleaners, explained the problem and they said they could repair it in a day. Later I realised that although they had indeed repaired the hole, there were still a handful of clinking coins at the bottom of the lining, gaily bouncing off my knee when I walked and calling homeless people to me wherever I go. To the destitute I’m the pied fucking piper. And you trying explaining that to a vagrant – it was costing me a fortune.
“Any loose change Boss?”
“Sorry I don’t have any change”
“I can hear you’ve got some change Boss”
“Yeah but it’s not loose change, it’s stuck in the lining of my coat”
“I’m not on drugs you know Boss”
“No really – although “technically” I have some change I literally cannot give it to you”
“I just want a cup of tea Boss – I’m not Amy Winehouse”
“I mean I’m not on drugs”
“Oh for God’s sake here’s a fiver – I don’t suppose you’ve got any change?”
“I do actually Boss………….but It’s stuck in the lining of my coat”
“Funny guy – and now that you have my money – are you on drugs?”
“Yep – can’t get enough of them”
“You have a good night”
As I said “hobophobic”