Sunday, 7 October 2007

Broderick's Sunday Special #4: Weekday Matinee

The woman walking down Tottenham Court Road, Starbucks coffee cup in one hand, Treo in the other, huge bag dangling from crook of the arm like a gladiator's shield, is clearly in a hurry. Her heels clip-clop on the pavement like an effeminate horse as she valiently, aggressively ignores the charity street fundraiser at her side. He's been following her for 100 yards now since she stepped into his Cylon-like field of vision outside We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre.

'The thing is, We (Heart) Poor People* tries to combat a growing problem in our society. Every year, more than TWELVE rough-sleepers end up spending the night on the street under poor quality newspapers!'

'Go away,' the woman says. She looks to her left and tries to cross the road. The traffic is too heavy. She's stuck with him.

'Do you know what it's like to sleep under the sun?'

'Yes, I was in Tunisia last summer. It was lovely.'

'I mean The Sun, the newspaper. It's hardly enough to cover the entire body! There's barely any content at all! You think topless women and unsubstantiated stories are enough to keep you warm at night?'

'No, I don't. Now please stop following me. I already give to a charity, in fact, to a charity that helps the homeless. I don't give change to homeless people but I do donate it to the Salvation Army. I don't need you following me around, talking my ear off. What could possibly have given you the idea that I wanted to engage you in extended conversation?'

'Well, you did say "hello."'

'I said "Aw, hell!" And then, "another fucking charity street fundraiser!"'

She's at the crosswalk now, and he, with his clipboard and dreadlocks, is looking at the ground.

'I just think it's an important issue.'

Her shoulders sag. 'I know it is. I just don't think it's appropriate for you to be so aggressive. There's no need to follow me. In fact, it's a little bit creepy. Plus, your dreads smell like sewage.'

'We just want all homeless people to have quality journalism to sleep under. Newspapers that cover all the issues... as well as their legs.'

'Fine. Here's 50 p. Leave me alone.'

'I don't want your change, madam, I'd like a commitment.'

Having reached the opposite side of the road, she turns around on him, eyes blazing. 'You listen to me, you smug sack of crap. White people shouldn't have dreadlocks. I should kill you where you stand for that alone. But I will ignore this. What I will not ignore is your following me for ten minutes that I missed my destination and will have to double back.'

There is a long pause. 'Where are you going?' he asks in a small voice.

'The cinema.'

'It's a bit back that way.'

'Thank you.'

'What are you going to see?'

'Ratatouille.'

'Would you like some company?'

'No.'

++++

I've been watching this ignoble display from afar, and I pull out my notebook, and pen and imagination working furiously, start scribbling it all down.

I have no problem with the things that charity street fundraisers stand for, but I dislike the fact that their very presence on the High Street reduces an important cause to a daily annoyance. How are we meant to trust that a charity will actually help the people they're meant to if their public face is a bunch of musty-smelling students with blond dreadlocks?

It does make for excellent weekday matinee entertainment, however. I'll pass on Ratatouille for now, until the DVD release, even if the voice of the rat is one of my favourite comedians, Patton Oswalt.

*Names of charities and actual causes have been exaggerated to protect privacy and increase entertainment value.

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