I have discovered a secret super power. It’s not a particularly good one, or one that’s useful to anyone else but me, but it’s definitely something close to making me an Avenger. Probably. Everytime I walk to our nearest bus stop, the bus I need is either there, or just arriving. It has happened to me 12 times in a row now, so it must entirely be my doing and scientists would probably all agree. Sadly it doesn’t work on the route home and yesterday, as per usual, I managed to arrive at Finsbury Park station to a complete lack of buses and a long queue of very morose looking people. People always look slightly morose at Finsbury Park station. It’s something to do with the station’s special powers. I’ve seen football fans after a win cheering till they hit Wells Terrace, whereupon the bleak fork pattern of bus shelters and strange shack selling mobile phone additions no one wants, needs or trusts, reduces them to a confused grimace. Yesterday there were 8 people dressed up in 1930’s prohibition era fancy dress, looking glum waiting for a W7. Though I suppose I’d be glum too if I was from a time where alcohol was illegal.
While standing around refreshing Twitter until something – nay, anything – happened, I heard a voice say ‘I’m so sorry to bother you.’ I looked up and a homeless woman was asking the girl next to me if she had any change. I immediately popped my hand in my pocket and fished around for some remnants of cash. While I am mostly happy to give money in these situations, I rarely have any on my person and normally sound unnecessarily patronising as I say an ‘ooh’ of genuine surprise as I pull some out. I gave her the sadly meagre £1.30. As she opened her hand she looked me in the eye and said ‘I promise I am going to use it to find a room for tonight.’ This shocked me. I was never thinking about questioning what she needed it for. It’s none of my business. I muttered a ‘cool, no worries’ which wasn’t what I wanted to ask at all, and she went to the next person along. What I wanted to ask is why she felt the need to tell me, and how many arseholes had demanded they knew what she was doing with their money before handing it over? I presume that’s why she did it. She could just have been telling me, in the way I sometimes over share with people about everything I’m doing. Thanks to Twitter I can now do this online too. But cynical self-righteous me, doubts that’s the reason at all.
It feels very strange at the moment that we live in a time where MPs and MEPs can use allowances and expenses with little transparency, or government can spend money giving contracts to friends or companies they have shares in with no questions asked. Yet I have heard several times over the last few years, people slurring anyone on benefits who dares to buy cigarettes with their money. ‘I’m sick of this culture of entitlement’ I saw scattered across Twitter a few weeks ago. It was during one of those many ‘let’s demonise the poor’ programs that seems to become more popular than panel shows in the eyes of the media. These shows called ‘Benefit Shitters’ or ‘If You’re On Benefits You’re Worse Than Satan’s Dad’ or something along those lines, with endless tones of judgment in the title sequence alone. Many watching felt the need to express on social media how disgraceful it was that any of the people on the show felt they were entitled to a roof on their heads or to feed their children and not let them die. It seemed a common theme to confuse a ‘culture of entitlement’ with ‘basic human rights’. I very much feel we do have a culture of entitlement in the UK. The entitlement that Maria Miller felt she had to use taxpayers money to help her parents with their mortgage and not even properly apologise for it. The culture of entitlement in The City to gamble with taxpayers money on a regular basis or to claim bonuses despite failing. The culture of entitlement of those with a lot of money to dictate the quality of living of those without. That’s all evident.
I think all humans are actually entitled to several things. A right to life, to freedom of speech, to food, water, shelter and welfare. I definitely feel like I’m entitled to those things and I really do fuck all for anyone. What I should have asked that homeless woman was ‘Are you ok? Is there anything else I can do to help?’ instead of just being taken aback by her need to clarify my trust that her donation would be used ‘for good’. I hope it’s just because she was just oversharing. I hope it wasn’t because time and time again people blamed her for her situation, wanting to know that if they were to part with some small change it mustn’t go on booze, as though they needed some investment in the control of her life.
The bus eventually came. I clearly haven’t yet learned to control my power, though if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to hand over £1.30. So maybe I’m using it just how it should be used. As the bus pulled away, everyone on board grimaced just slightly less the further from the station they went.