Actually in reality it's called Cafe Onik, but that's what my parents and I have decided to call it.
It's a little cafe literally down the block from my apartment, open most days just during the day (closes inconveniently right at 5pm, everyday...so no dinnertime).
Hong Kong P, true to form, woke up after 1pm the next day so we were both quite hungry by the time we were ready and getting ourselves out the door, with our plans to see the Tate Modern that day. Instead of waiting to get to town to get food, we decided to check out Cafe Oink and sit out in the rarely-seen-but-much-cherished sunshine that had finally decided to come out and play.
The warmth of the sun is really something no one should take for granted. As people who have become completely mole-like and hidden from the sun (not by choice), it is a rare and wonderful thing to see it in its full beauty. And it was out in bunches that day. Glory, sweet golden glory.
We ordered our food (her a tuna salad, me a much less healthy chicken bacon wrap covered in cheese with side salad) and sat outside to enjoy the sun.
Unfortunately we were greeted by a beggar not too long after our food came. She asked us if we had a pound to spare so she could feed her unborn child and her current children and could ride the bus. We said we didn't (I've always been very uncomfortable with homeless people who are aggressive and persistent, not knowing what they really use the money for, though I suppose that's neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things) and hoped she would move on.
She did move on...to the next table (a pair of gentlemen friends in track suits and heavy cologne, with a baby in a stroller) and proceeded to ask them. They ignored her similar to how we had.
She continued to do this around the street with no givers. West Ealing, the neighborhood I live in, is not exactly a rich area. Mostly Middle Eastern with some white and other (which would be me I suppose) it's mostly young families and couples. Not exactly the type of people who have a ton of money to spare and certainly not the best to react to proactive begging. Maybe the sad quiet beggar on the street, but not the persistent kind. In general we don't have beggars at all. This was a strange and surprising sight to begin with.
Anyway, she came back to us eventually, though unfortunately not before calling us racial names, and not so under her breath, though she was clearly talking to herself. She also racially slurred the men at the table next to ours. She then got angry and demanded us to look at her. Eventually after her tirade she left to go across the street and continue her business elsewhere.
Hong Kong P and I talked about very little after she left. What does one do in those situations? You could give the money to the person, and I suppose they could be grateful to you, regardless of whether or not they will use the money for what they have told you it was for. You could not give the money to the person and either ignore them, respond to them, or do elsewise. We'd both responded to her and ignored her.
What would you have done, readers? Especially after she started getting aggressive and demanding? And racist? Are there right ways to respond in this situation?
It's understood that homeless people (or people who beg, just in general, they may or may not be homeless) are humans too. And we should all respect one another. But to what limits does this respect go? Especially when one stops respecting the other? It's true that we could have responded to her differently when she first approached us, but how does one appropriately respond in that situation?
I'll leave you with this picture of food as a gesture of food for thought. This was the fatty chicken bacon wrap I had while we were having this situation. Not sure I'll eat outside at Cafe Oink for awhile after this situation, despite it not being their fault. However they also did nothing to stop the situation or help their patrons. For that I will count something against them.