Sort of Okay-ish Samaritan

I was back at Vauxhall today – giving my legs a chance to recover from the exertions of yesterday – and turning into the underpass to lock up my bike, I noticed something strange. Up to now, the Tour de France has been having a bit of a Wimbledon effect among London’s cyclists, and bike rack space near the entrance to the underpass has been at a premium. But there were no bikes there this morning. This, I realised, was due to the presence of a drunk slumped down between the bike racks, can of White Lightning in his hand, glaring around incoherently at all and sundry. Finding a space at a discreet distance, and carefully avoiding his eye, I locked up my bike and thought no more about it.

Coming home, almost 12 hours later, I was surprised to see him more or less in the same place, but more slumped this time and with his head hanging down almost to his chest. Now, I don’t want to be the passer by who just passes by someone dead or dying in the street. But neither do I want to be the annoying member of the public who calls an ambulance for a sleeping tramp and stops it from going to someone in real need. It’s a dilemma. I unlocked my bike and got ready to go, looking at him anxiously over my shoulder as I did so. Finally I saw him shift slightly so I knew if he wasn’t exactly OK, he at least wasn’t so dead that he had stopped moving. I stopped as I passed and managed to convince myself at least that he was sleeping peacefully and still had a full can of White Lightning, so he was probably fine. And then I relieved my conscience by pointing him out to the LondonLite guy so it could be his problem instead of mine.

So what would you do? Does worrying about it make it better that I didn’t actually do anything or worse? Or should I just let tramps sleep peacefully in the sun, and leave them alone in the future?

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12 responses to “Sort of Okay-ish Samaritan

  1. London City Soul

    As long as he doesn’t smoke a lump of crack like the tramp I encountered at my usual underground station today afternoon, i’d say you’re fine by leaving him alone.

  2. Pingback: University Update - Wimbledon - Sort of Okay-ish Samaritan

  3. no, you should have taken his white lightning to give you some extra energy for the ride home.
    cheers john

  4. LCS – well smoking crack is at least a sign of life
    John – taking cider from a tramp? That’s cruel as well as a bit icky

  5. When i was at University I cam across a Tramp looking weak and desperate. A friend and I lifted him and carried him to a homeless shelter. He was noisome and brittle. nWe rapped on the door of the shelter and a little wiondow in the door pulled open as they do in films about gangster hideouts. We said we had found a man and that we wanted to pay for him to spend the night in the hostel. The door opened and the hostel worker looked disappointedly at our man. “Jimmy, I told you to Fuck Off” he said. He then looked at us and said “He is trouble. He has had many warnings and we don’t want him here”. At that the tramp suddenly became animated “Fuck the lot of yers! Yers all cunts”. He began to flail about stopping only to insist that I give him the money that I had planned to give the hostel.

  6. Moobs – you are a far better person than I am.

  7. That certainly isn’t true. I am a lawyer. I think what that taught me is that we overestimate our ability to help people with complex and intractable problems. I had a long chat on a flight once with someone who works at the St Mungos hostel in London. He said NEVER give money to a beggar. Give it to a homeless chairty instead. He had a vested interest of course but his view was that giving money simply exacerbated the problem whilst alleviating guilt.

  8. I think a lot of the things we do for homeless people is for us – our own self image – rather than for them.

  9. As someone who works on a station… It really is annoying – and yes we discuss this amongst ourselves – when someone brings it to our attention that “there was a really ill looking vagrant/tramp/beggar on the train, who I felt was in such great need that I immediately completed my journey through half a dozen stops before easing my guilt by making it your problem”… argh! If you feel bad then do something, if you don’t feel bad enough that you want to make the effort to help, then don’t try to pass it over to someone else. Personally I wouldn’t have done anything as long as I could see he was well enough to breathe and/or hold onto his can of cider. I don’t think you did anything to feel bad about because in this day and age you have to be careful and mindful of your own safety.

  10. I think the cider test is the key here … if they can keep the can upright even while apparently passed out, they’re probably okay…

  11. It’s a difficult call. As an NHS worker I have to say that it does rather tie up resources when crews are frequently called to people who are simply drunk and – when woken up by a concerned paramedic – abusive. It’s comforting to know that some members of the public still care enough to try and help but I think sometimes folks watch a bit too much Casualty and get carried away; nine times out of ten ‘dead’ people just want to be left alone with their cider/crack/paint stripper.

  12. I think my problem is reading too many Ambulance blogs …

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