I normally never stop with my car window rolled down, but I was at the petrol station early one morning last week spending my last bit of cash until pay-day, when a man came seemingly out of nowhere and started begging me for money. We live in SA, it's nothing new, right? So I said sorry, that I didn't have any. But, undettered, the man kept at it:
"Please, just a Rand hey..."
"No, I'm sorry I have no money."
"It was my birthday yesterday..."
"Look, I really have no cash."
"It's cold, just some coins for a coffee, please man..."
"I'm sorry, I've got nothing at all."
And here we were talking over each other, he over my rejections and I over his requests, both of us only taking enough of what the other was saying in to be able to counter argue, until eventually my Whitehouse gene* kicked in and my anger appeared in what seemed like a flash:
"Listen buddy, I don't have any bloody money, OK?" I said with my hands clawed in the air and my debit card on my lap to swipe for however much a 1/4 tank of petrol costs nowadays. "This is the last of my..."
But he'd already started walking away to ask someone else, not caring about the situation of his unwilling donor. And there I was left sitting in the car, my anger slowly getting washed away by a wave of guilt, that horrible emotion that I feel far more of often than not and makes me feel like a shitty shitty person.
I know that beggars hear white lies and excuses all day long, but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish we would just treat one another like human beings and recognise that times are tough all round. We are all struggling one way or another in this complex, crazy, confusing thing we call life - maybe we should stop, take a second and realise that although we are all the star in our own movie, there are others around us that are dealing with life too, same as you. I'm by no means comparing my situation to that man's, but I also don't like being made to feel that I'm lying because I'm not willing to give someone a handout. Sometimes, no really does mean no.
* For those of you who don't know, my darling mum's maiden name is Whitehouse, and Mrs Whitehouse senior was my granny. She was a difficult woman to say the least, and I think that I get my stubborn/angry/stroppy streak from her. Then again, that's also where I get my backbone.