I avoid so much in my daily goings-about. Call it survival-instinct.
I expect myself to know everything all at once, castigate myself for lessons not learnt – falling for the same old bullshit again and again.
But you don’t learn that quickly – some things you do not learn quickly.
You have modes of behaviour that have become ingrained since babyhood (it’s okay, I’m only talking to myself).
I avoid a particular sales-assistant in a certain shop, not always, but if I think it is too soon – to be seeing her again – to be served by her.
She’d be astounded if she knew – we pass the time of day – but I don’t want her to pick up on what I regularly buy from there – I can say only so much, but what I buy from there is part of the huge emporium I have built around myself so that I survive.
There is a seller of magazines – a homeless person who lives in council accommodation and who is undergoing schemes of help – to get these magazines to sell you need to be and do that.
But, once, I was scammed by a magazine-seller.
He had one – wrapped in plastic.
I thought it was his last one to sell – they come armed with a stack.
I paid him the money, and he said, “You don’t really want this magazine, do you?”
Well, I didn’t.
I was doing my deed of concern, that was all.
I said that I didn’t.
No doubt, he ‘sold’ it to another.
That was a scam, though I didn’t realise it until later, when I’d had time to think about it.
He would have bought that one magazine, kept it nice and clean in a plastic cover, and ‘sold’ it to gullible people over and over, until the next issue came out, and he’d start the process again – maybe in pastures new, before he became known . . .
I can guess, you see, what he would do.
And now I avoid all sellers of this magazine – I’ve never got over that one experience. It might seem strange to be scammed, realise it, but fail to get over it.
But that is what has happened.
And they, and other chuggers, are on every street corner – and if you don’t respond it’s, “Have a nice day . . .”
As though they are so much holier than thou!
The sarcasm puts me off; the attempt at manipulation – which is what it amounts to.
And this one that I am avoiding – he stands at the main thoroughfare into the bus station – and he calls me Ms – which can so easily be mistaken for ‘Miss’ – how young I look! – and he hopes to flatter – I’m old, I’m old! – I’m on a pension!
And that, “Enjoy the rest of your day!” as I go past.
If he wasn’t such a scheming little git . . .
And I go by there nearly every day, shopping bags full, my bus pass in my pocket. If I paid out for a magazine, would that be enough? Or would he be there, blocking my way, the next day?
But, the other day, I got off the bus at a stop where I don’t usually (I’m on a mission), and I saw a homeless dude sitting at a junction corner.
I did my usual manoeuvre to get past him – there are so many musicians on this stretch and I can’t be paying, every day, for music that I didn’t ask for.
And then I swerved back, and got the coin from my purse.
He was playing a tin whistle.
He was playing ‘Amazing Grace’, and I am not religious.
But that did not put me off.
When I got close, I could see that he was grimy. I mean really dirty. His hair, his face, neck, hands, clothes.
And he was shaking.
He was badly shaking, not just a little bit.
Coming down off some drug or other, I could see.
No council shelter for him with its regulations.
I could see he was in too much of a state to accept those.
He was too close to that absolute edge.
And I dropped the coin into his hat.
“Thank you man,” he said. “Oh, thank you man!”
An old hippie, and I hadn’t heard that sort of lingo for a long time.
“You’re really playing that,” I said, indicating the whistle. “So many of them are not really playing,” I said.
“No, they’re not.”
He knew what I meant.
There are at least two accordions in that area – you prime them up – as a little robot, I suppose – and then you can do just about whatever you want, and a tune will come out.
I tell you, they pass them around – and I think I am right, though I am not musical at all (hardly).
The people I see with these instruments – you just know there is no way they could be that talented. You can’t go by looks, but you feel that you just know.
And I walked on from that guy.
And thought of him all day.
I should have given him a note, not a coin. I should have said, “Here – it’s your birthday.”
And I wouldn’t have cared what he spent it on – once I’d got close, and looked into his eyes, I recognised him from somewhere – at that point, there had been a stop in his speech, as though he knew me, in that instant, also.
But I can’t remember from where I knew him, just thought of a Glastonbury Festival I went to once – when some guy helped himself, excessively, of some dope I carried – but I don’t think this man was him.