Standing in the Landmark taxi queue, a young woman comes up to me for a donation for the elderly. The kind that have authentic printed leaflets, and secure collection bags. Why not, I open my wallet, at which point she volunteers “HKD 100 would help one elderly person immensely.”
Another young woman from the same charity comes over, “How about making another donation?” she proffers her bag. At which point I belatedly realize no one else in the queue that I can see has contributed. The first young woman hands me a tea towel apparently my donation has “bought,” and I decline to accept it (what do I need the tea towel for?) while her companion tries again. Loudly. “Come on, how about helping another elderly person immensely?” She smiles winningly. I avoid her eyes.
In that instance I don’t see what I wish I did, someone who has taken time out to stand on a busy, polluted sidewalk on a hot summer’s day. I’m irritated by her persistence, maybe because I notice there are quite a few people she doesn’t even approach. She leans in between me and the first woman, still smiling, and tries to catch my eye. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? “Come on, are you sure…..?” Seeing my face, the first woman drags her off me and beats a quick retreat, but not before thrusting two tea towels I don’t want at me. I start to protest, she insists, I take the towels just to get rid of them.
Not a minute later, I happen to make eye contact with a young man holding a collections box. He immediately makes a beeline for me, without approaching anyone else in the queue, “How about donating, you would help a lot of people – “
“No. Leave me alone.” I don’t say it loudly, but I feel like a monster. The caucasian couple in front of me, who btw didn’t donate, like most every other person in the queue that I can see, flinch. And continue to not to look at these people.
Deja Vu. I am also the monster who scolded locals in the street who were collecting donations for shelter animals in Sai Kung. We were carrying lots of shopping and somehow in the mad scramble (that Kings always initiates in his effort to get wherever the hell he’s going faster than fast) to pick all our stuff up my husband scooped up my handbag and charged off through the crowd with the Rockstar on his shoulders, leaving me to try and keep up while pushing Rockstar’s stroller (way, WAY back when he very occasionally still deigned to use one – now we use the BMX to get him anywhere fast.)
So when I get stopped for a donation I explain my husband has run off with my purse (it’s the truth but I still find it a little funny the way he charges purposefully about and how come no one ever stops him for a contribution) and, seeing Kings decide and indicate our cafe destination not 10 feet away, explain that after we’re settled I’ll come back.
So you’d think regardless whether she believes me she’s gonna let me by, right? WRONG. She stands there partially blocking the stroller and proceeds to wheedle, “Come on lah… Have some compassion…”
That’s when I lose it. (In case you’re wondering it was the use of the word compassion that I somehow found obnoxious) “LOOK AT ME. I am pushing a stroller piled high with groceries, trying to keep up with – ” Aforementioned husband has actually turned all the way around from a crowded 5 feet ahead with a grim expression on his face. Oh. That must’ve been loud. Kings is NOT normally responsive when I speak, we converse on email, Bloomberg (and now What’s App), a habit formed from a relationship developed around our lives in dealing rooms…
Ah well <indicating grim husband>. “I said I don’t have my bag. HE’S got my bag <grim husband holds up beaten up old Prada. Mildly entertained Rockstar looks on. Oh. Mummy’s scolding someone in the street and it’s not me. Hmm. Were they touching the dog pee stained pavement?> We need to put our things down, I said I would come back and I will. You are scaring people off that way (oops maybe so was I). Let. Me. By.”
This time everyone lets us alone. It’s like a parting of the sea of people. I loathe going back but I actually can’t remember when I’ve ever flaked on when I say I’ll do it. In Cantonese I can hear someone whisper, “She actually did donate. Leave her alone.” Well, d-uh?
OK. Only for the sake of fleshing out my gripe post. If asked, people who know me personally would probably describe me as fairly generous. Beyond tithing, I’ve always liked doing little things for friends and colleagues. I sent flowers to a right hand at the office for several Valentine’s when she was getting over someone (even after we didn’t work together), when I have a bad day I might do coffee runs (serving just changes your whole “I’M having a bad day, ME” outlook).. And yes I donate. It stems from a genuine belief in generosity as a way of worship, of giving something back. I feel I’ve led a blessed life (in case you were thinking it’s Total Crackpot Day in Rockstarland, lemme point out that being a glass-half-full person will help you a lot more than it helps anyone else). Granted I have never lived where someone could choose not to work and just stand on the street it might be easier for me to feel this way…
So anyway. I don’t know why the aggressive donation seeking in Hong Kong just totally pisses me off. Maybe the average person on the street needs to be canvassed like that, it’s certainly not easy to do, in which case these people should really be applauded.
But it just annoys the hell out of me . Especially the bit where they zero in on people they think would be a soft touch. From now on I am cheque-only. And alternate taxi Q seeking.