Uncharitable Me

We should use alternate transport more often

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.

Rockstar Public Service Message: Seek Landmark taxi queue alternatives. Flirt with Huiwen.

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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  • http://carebearincrazyland.wordpress.com/ Dora

    Totally know the feeling. I tend to give some change to the Saturday morning flag sellers when I happen to walk by. (I’ve helped out as a flag seller before and I know how really REALLY hard it is.)

    But standing in a bus queue one morning, i.e. can’t run away and they know it, I had a box thrust in my face asking for a donation. It really pissed me off. Like you said, it’s being put on the spot and feeling trapped and I don’t like it one bit. I shook my head no and the woman actually stood there, stared at me and went, “No?!” I thought I might push her in front of a passing bus. (Ok, maybe not, but you get the idea!)

    Then she went and asked the girl next to me, who complied and dug into her purse. The entire bus queue looked on and I felt like I was the most evil bus-queuer to have ever lived.

  • Anonymous

    Heather – yes it’s totally the put upon feeling that’s off-putting(sorry)… and the moral-high-horse-ness… yes we can snap at them, how come we’re the ones who feel horrible when they started it? “Would you care to donate to a fund where I’m doing an experiment and have no idea what will happen, maybe I’ll donate it, maybe I’ll buy fireworks with it,” meet http://wtffund.wordpress.com/ on the other hand is a different story…

    Zmun, yeah my mum complains about those who do that in public carparks like Gurney Drive, just put plastic chairs to block up parking areas and remove it for a fee… it’s illegal in Hong Kong to solicit unless you have a legitimate charity  to collect for, I found that out the hard way because I especially give to this one disabled beggar I used to pass all the time outside the International Finance Center until a couple policemen stopped me, handed me back my cash and explained (kindly, politely in English – apparently that marked me as foreign) that it’s illegal… Apparently if you want to help them you should give them something like food… I actually saw a caucasian lady do that once…

  • http://profiles.google.com/heather.sario Heather Sario

    I commiserate completely. It’s the feeling of being put on the spot that really turns me off ‘giving’ to roadside charities. I’ve been guilty of losing it a couple of times too. Makes me feel like a complete meanie douche-bag after, but what’s a girl to do? They can choose to nag and follow and annoy and insistently plead with me, and I can choose to lose it. Especially when it’s the wrong time of the month. :p

    Awwww, another cute one of rockstar. Squeeze cheeks. :)

  • http://lifeafter38.blogspot.com/ zmun2

    Sometimes these people are really too much that even people who usually will donate will be put off. In KL, I dread eating at coffee shop because often then not, someone will thrust a collection can into my face over my food and ask for donation. The thing is – here in KL, they may not be from genuine charities but are con artists.

  • Anonymous

     That girl is cute! She has a big smile like yours ;)

    • Anonymous

      Hui wen’s on my blogroll dear.. She’s Bossming’s right hand :)

      • Anonymous

         Lucky Boss-ming. Has such a cutie righthand woman to boss around.

      • Anonymous

        Btw hwl, you made huiwen too shy to reply to your comment lar :D

      • Anonymous

        Aileen: please pass on my apologies to Huiwen, all my comments are intended as compliments. Like you, she writes well and perceptively on her blog.
        I like your blog’s new background – nice mathematical fractals and the movie star.