Moral dilemmas in NW6

A true short story by @UKColin

I’ve fallen for my share of scam artists who approach with a sob story about needing bus or train fare to visit a sick relative, or because they’ve been mugged, or their car has broken down. On Saturday night, a man in a blue baseball cap approached me outside of Kilburn tube station with a familiar story.

His daughter had just fallen ill that day and he was trying to raise money for the tube fare to go visit her. I gave my standard, “Sorry, can’t help you,” and kept walking.

Late Sunday afternoon, I spotted the same bloke further up Maygrove Road, and although I recognised him, he evidently didn’t remember me. When he greeted me with the same story as the day before, I replied, “You tried that on me yesterday,” and kept walking.

He called after me, “Did it work?”

I turned and replied, “No, sorry.”

He then caught up with me and struck up a conversation. He revealed that he had a drug habit, and that’s why he needs the money. “I’d rather do it this way than mug an old lady,” he explained.

I was taken aback by his honesty and attempt at causing the least amount of harm to help himself. I debated whether to try to suggest that he try to get help for his drug problem, but all I could respond with at the time was, “Oh, well, good luck to you.”

After the fact, I wished I could have offered him some advice about treatment centres or ways to earn money without having to trick people for it. But I also wanted to congratulate him for not resorting to violence to feed his habit.

Then it dawned on me that I’d just had a longer conversation with this guy than I’d had with anyone living on Maygrove Road (apart from the neighbours I chat with over the garden fence) in the seven years I’d lived here. What does that say about me? What does it say about my NW6 neighbours?

Colin Bridgewater