Before I moved to London, I was a sucker for signing up for things that I really had no interest in. The people from groups like Red Cross and Oxfam, as worthy as their causes may be, knew how to play me like a fiddle: hire a pretty girl with a big smile to call out to me in a shopping centre, then stick a pen in my hand and let hormones do the rest.
Let’s not make light of this situation because my inability to say ‘no’ was a seriously critical issue. At one point I was so drawn in by a mesmerising Oxfam representative, to the point that I did not notice that I had developed a nose bleed until a single drop fell awkwardly onto my outstretched hand. I signed the donations paperwork just to get out of there before she noticed.
If nothing else has come from my time in London, it is that I have been cured of this vulnerability to charity workers. London has bred a different type of charity workers, less reliant on charm and flirtation than manic yelling and persistent heckling. These charity muggers — known as ‘chuggers’ — are the bane of any underpaid Aussie in London who really would give if they could.
There is actually legislation that says chuggers can not continue to pester their victims if the person says no (or even if the person refuses to make eye-contact, a passive aggressive move that I tend to favour).
We have all been there: walking out of a Tube station, just wanting to get home or get to the pub or get somewhere to escape from the insanity of city life. You are almost free and then there they are: like military tacticians they have set themselves up at every exit, there is no hope for escape except to put your head down, pretend to play with your phone and walk briskly past the legion of chuggers.
To all of the chuggers out there: I am sorry. In the past I would have signed my life away to you without a second thought, all it would have taken would have been a cheeky wink. It’s nothing you have done wrong. It is not you, it’s me… and it was London.