Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some cities do have them: professional beggars

They come in various guises. With different voices and stories. They are adept at ambushing innocent citizens of Lagos – while you are standing innocently by the bus stops, lonely hospital corridors, inside your office or in a public conveyance.

There you are seated in a half filled bus, contemplating the playlist on your ipod that will keep you entertained for the next 2 hrs in traffic; when a new passenger comes in and seats beside you quietly. One thirds into the trip, s/he bursts into loud Christian song and begins the long sorrowful tale.
S/he might be an immigrant from any of the neighboring countries on exile due to political problems, sent away from home by wicked relations or the well dressed American deportee. All s/he’s asking for is money to go home. 24 months after, s/he’s still telling the same story.
He might be The Ex-con who just got released that morning/afternoon/evening after his last meal of rice&maggots in the prison. This guy was so good that everybody in the bus helped him out. Till I saw him the next day with the same routine down to the dinner of maggots last night.
He might be The Old man who claims to be a Justice of peace??? Which entitles him to a free ride in a privately owned commercial transport?? I’ve encountered him a number of times. Some Bus drivers let him be. Some don’t. For the latter, he releases a volley of Biblical verses about respect for the elderly and consequent curses. I never know if to admire his temerity, vex at his abuse of his age, vex at our government who did not make provisions for our dear senior citizens or just be amused.
She might be The mother of twins. Who I meet every morning as she prepares her space for the day’s fundraising on the pedestrian bridge with her 15month old twins in tow.
She might be The fat woman who claims to be starving, blind and nursing broken legs and elbows after a ‘fatal’ accident. She does see enough to give personalised thanks to her almsgivers  - thank you daughter, thank you Son. 
She might be the student who made a 750km trip to Lagos to visit her Aunty only to find out that dear Aunty has moved house/Travelled out of the country/hates her and now she doesnt have the fare to take her back to school. I do always give when I hear this particular story. Being stranded is not a joke.
He might be the erudite man who studies his dictionary before his daily routine. Hear him:
“Please dear Brothers and Sisters, help me in the name of God. Begging for alms is not my will. But I have no choice because of my unique circumstances. Begging is..
Embarrassing
Humiliating
Degrading
Dehumanizing
Traumatizing
Intrusive
Insufferable
Atrocious
Depressing
It is Appalling
Hateful
Degrading
Disgraceful
Disgusting
Offensive
Reprehensible
Oppressive
Intolerable
……. You gotta admire the style he brings to the profession! I miss Lagos transports!

3 comments:

  1. I usually give something if the person catches me. Still, when I've given them money for the bus, train, or whatever, it annoys me when I see them move on to their next "mark". My problem is that I think I am too trusting.

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  2. Let me indulge you in a day on public transport (in Lagos, of course), in memory of old times.

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  3. One day, i was on my way to the hospital with my ill brother. I was having a bad day and i was dressed to a T cos i didn't know i would make the trip. As we got out of the taxi, one of those aggressive kids just jumped on me! You should have seen the way i dodged and the kid just fell. He wasn't hurt and i wasn't proud of myself either. As a rule, i give alms to people that deserve it. You don't just enter a bus and sing a few gospel songs and expect me to give you my hard earned money. No way! Too many fake beggars out there. Take care!

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