I just opened the front door and this man said “would you be interested in buying my sticker that reads ‘no junk please’?
He explained that he had began his sticker business because of the recession. He would be grateful for any loose change I cared to give towards the sticker.
So I gave him some change and started talking to him to find about how he ended up selling the stickers?
He told me he was fifty years old. In addition to being a bus driver and having spent time in the army, he had worked for seventeen years in the casino business.
There he started as a Car Jockey. The clients liked him. So did the management. He eventually was made Head Receptionist. His charm encouraged clients to to give hime a fiver here or there just to call a cab or ensure that, if for example, they were in party, he led them to their seats and so on.
The Casino were happy – because the customers felt at home.
However, after seventeen years new management took out all the old staff and bought in their own people.
The casino business is a shady vindictive affair. The new management saw to it that the old staff would find it difficult to get work with any competitors.
He felt betrayed but still had seventeen years of memories and moments.
He told me of how he had seen people lose millions in the casino.
One man used to spend around £40k a night – and lose it. Then one day, the man’s luck changed and he won £100k. He gave everyone a £50 tip and (the man who was telling me the story) drove the winner home in a complimentary Rolls – for which he received a further £50 tip.
The next night the winner was back and lost all the money, never to get that winning streak again. But he somehow seemed to get a kick out of turning to the other gamblers and saying, “well, that’s life.”
The conversation turned to how business was faring selling the stickers?
He said that the elderly are always happy to offer 10p or so for the sticker. If they looked poor, he would give them the sticker for free and wish them well.
Many people commend him on his initiative – but when it came handing over any change, they close the door. Or may get into a conversation, but at the point of payment, suddenly claim they didn’t speak English.
Each sticker costs him 10p and he makes up to £1 on a sticker.
Some people – generally in working class areas – occasionally spot him weeks later and give him £2 for the sticker as they felt embarrassed that initially they only offered any small change in the house.
I asked him where was the worse area to work in? He told me had worked all over london, walking the streets selling stickers, from Shepherds Bush to Harrow…
But the worse places were like Pinner or Moor Park – where the driveways had three Mercs or BMWs and the homes were clearly worth millions.
Whenever he would ask the rich for any spare change for his sticker enterprise, 9 out of 10 times they closed the door in his face.
I asked him why he thought that was? “Well you can’t be as rich as them if you spend the money.” He answered.
I then thought about his job in the very glamourous casino where people were eager to sit next to others and night after night, smile as they lost on a spin of a wheel – – to laugh out ‘well that’s life’ to their fellow gamblers . However when it came to any loose change for a sticker didn’t waste a penny of their wealth.
And people ask why the young who are surrounded by messages telling them that they can have it all – because everyone is entitled to it. – feel disconnected and live for the moment rioting and looting for FlatScreens.
Or why Apple has become even wealthier than Exxon, selling devices which give the full picture of life on a nine inch screen, and whose consumers look forward to the next model featuring even higher definition pictures of people who proudly display their Wasteman shots on Facebook.
I don’t believe the rioters have specific political agenda – why should they? Who cares “Here comes the new boss – same as the old boss.”
Reality for them is survival of the fittest, the right to respect and recognition that has to be fought for. Society demands celebrity. Setting fire to a building gives you a lot of that around the world and throughout the local postcodes.
Maybe the young just want the quickest access to the sublime – rather than pondering the socio-political aspects of life.
Their parents have given up to live a life of watching Jeremy Kyle chastise people who ‘surely can’t be that stupid.’ Or watch couples compete on Bargain Hunt for the highest bid under £100 on someone’s life relics.
Even the middle-classes who scrupulously followed the rules –trained themselves to compartmentalise their 9-5, from brief, but timeless presents (a look, a smile, a hug) for future memories and justifications of all their sacrifices. Even these devoted to a bigger picture who put their children through approved Uni, and put up with the corporate mundane, or company politics; for the sake of a promised distant company pension that would pay for a coffee by the pool, are struck by a bolt of thunderous realisation.
Their compliance was after all ultimately rewarded with little more than a pile in the attic of generations of ‘must have’ brands that sit under tatty blankets in boxes next to old school and Uni text books. Each tome delivering best practice procedures for an honourable career diligently manicured over the decades – to be cited as a prize-winning demonstrattion of getting it right.
Perhaps for the rioters it’s all about the thrill of their moment – because they are constantly reminded that too many moments are so empty.
Respect has to be won through risk and scars.
In the heat of the moment, they are not just oblivious to the consequences of their actions – but numb.
As are the people in Pinner and Moor Park swotting at the news on their iPads, Outlooking their smirks and wincing over a Nespresso at the vulgarity of the uneducated rioters who chose to steal consumer goods like sneakers rather than loot bookstores selling Michael McIntyre’s ‘Life and Laughing.”