Another Friday night’s outdoor drinking at the Sandton News Cafe was interrupted by the cries of a young street entrepreneur in dated ANC t-shirt who approached the guys sitting next to me with a unique offer.

Man: “Sorry to bother you, but would anybody like to buy roses or a sculpture?”

He was holding a dozen of almost dead roses and a coil of bent brass wire, from which it seemed the sculpture could have been made.

Man: “Look, I won’t mess you about, I’m homeless, right? And rather than standing at the traffic lights begging or whatever, I thought I’d try offering something in return. This is what I do. I sell roses and sculptures. Does anybody want one in return for a donation?”

I wondered if perhaps I actually did have someone to buy roses for, while worrying that someone might try and say something clever that would make the whole situation worse. Luckily no one did, and he moved to the group behind.

Before he had finished his sales pitch to the assembled drinkers, in unison they shouted, “No thanks.”

It was then that one of the group, rather than taking a refuge in their collective response, felt compelled to justify his refusal.

Drinking man: “Actually, you wouldn’t believe this, but I’m actually begging myself. I’ve left my wallet… all my cards in the office… so I actually don’t have any money.”

Roses man: “if you want something, maybe someone could lend you some money.”

Drinking man’s friend: (sensing an opportunity to humiliate him) “Yeah, I’ll lend you some money. How many roses did you have in mind?”

Roses man: “Yeah, how many?”

Drinking man: “Well I’m not actually… actually I don’t have anyone to buy roses for at the moment…oh that’s my phone.”

He made a bad job of pretending to take a phone call and started walking away. There was widespread laughter, especially from the roses man, as he marched out of sight.

Khaya Hatile


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