The Charity Mugger (commonly called a “Chugger”) is a feature unique to the UK and Europe (I think… I hope). These scavengers of darkness stalk the streets and neighbourhoods of our cities, preying on our friendliness and goodwill. They will trap you on the pavement, outside shops, even outside your own home. And they have made us incredibly very unfriendly as a population.
How, you wonder, did I come to that extremely scientific conclusion? Simples, really. It occurred to me as I sauntered down a quaint London street last week. A nice enough person tried to stop me and ask for directions, and my first reaction was to break eye contact, pretend not to hear the person and keep walking. Why? Because usually when people stop you in the street they want something (usually your money).
But since living in London I have learned that if a stranger tries to talk to me – ignore and run. It took me a while to learn this lesson though. “Excuse me?”, “Yes, how can I help you?”, “Can I have just two minutes of your time…. Bla bla bla… give money to my charity or else you’re a bad person.” And I, like an idiot, always stood and listened to their sales pitches, and ultimately ended filling out their stupid forms and ended up supporting various charities – until I realised how much it was collectively costing me (they do not seem to realise that if I give “just a few pounds” to every Charity Mugger who approaches me I’d be shelling out hundreds of pounds a month). Now if someone tries to talk to me on the street I immediately assume they want my money and I ignore them. “Excuse me?”, “F*** off, I’m busy.” I have thus become an unfriendly person on the open savannahs of urban London.
Charity Muggers Everywhere
The problem is that there are so many of them in fact, that in the vast majority of cases when someone does stop you in the street they ARE in fact Chuggers, trying to convince you that for the price of a cup of tea you could save the planet (or at least a medicum sized country). They prey on the last vestiges of our natural friendliness and neighbourliness that make us stop for strangers. I don’t even answer the doorbell anymore – honestly – and this week when I told myself to not be stupid, it might be a delivery of some amazing package, I opened my door when the bell rang – only to find some purple-clad guilt-warrior who launched into his sales pitch before I could even say hello.
Mental note to self: Do not open the door when the bell rings. Ever. Unless someone phones me from outside first. And don’t speak to strangers in the street!
And if it wasn’t already difficult enough in big cities like the European capitals to connect with our fellow man, I truly believe that Chuggers have driven out the last bit of approachability from us by the misuse and, yes, even abuse of our natural friendliness. I think you’ll find that if a ban was put on Charity Mugging (please, please, please) in the same way that begging is illegal in some cities, you would actually see a return of a certain amount of approachability, kindness and pleasantness between strangers. When you know that a stranger trying to speak to you in the street is needing advice or just trying to strike up a conversation, I believe we will engage with them (well maybe…. this is London after all).
Agree with me? Disagree with me? Feel free to comment below.