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Previous entry: Appalled

Thursday, 31 March 2005
Not quite a sitting duck

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When I was a student I lived in a large communal house in Observatory, Cape Town.  The house was on a corner and our kitchen door opened onto a different street to the main door.  From time to time we used to get strangers knocking on the door asking for money.  Often the story would start along the lines

When I left my home in Worcester at six o’clock this morning to come to Groote Schuur Hospital, not knowing if my wife was still sick ...

Left uninterupted such a story could continue for five to ten minutes, without the narrator getting to the point, which was inevitably that he - or she - required some cash to pay for the train/bus/taxi fare to go home.  Most of the time I tried to avoid handing out money on the doorstep, especially to the regulars (who were often drunk), but inevitably I would encounter a story which was genuine.  And the stories that I considered genuine were usually short and to the point, and it was the first and last time you would ever see that particular person. 

I remember one of the regulars well. Once we were sitting talking around our kitchen table when he burst through the (unlocked) kitchen door and started helping himself to food from our shelves.  It was a few seconds before he noticed that we were sitting there, staring at him, (probably with shocked expressions on our faces). He apologised profusely.  Another time I was busy cooking when he knocked on the kitchen door.  When I opened he immediately launched into his tale, with a tell-tale alchoholic breath and a slight slur:

When I left my home in Worcester at six o’clock this morning to come to Groote Schuur Hospital, not knowing if my wife was still sick ...

I interjected that I was sorry that I could not help, and closed the door.  Twenty seconds later the front doorbell rang.  I went to the door and opened it, and to my surprise the same man was standing on the front doorstep.  As I opened the door he started up again:

When I left my home in Worcester at six o’clock this morning to come to Groote Schuur Hospital, not knowing if my wife was still sick ...

He seemed annoyed and confused when I interupted him again and pointed out that I was the same person who had answered the other door.

I thought of all this, twenty years after the fact, when I was reading the Baitbot.  Anyone who spams the webmaster’s email account is invited to a chat with Janne.  Unknown to them, Janne is actually a computer program.  Some of the conversations have the same tone as those I remember from my student doorstep during the 1980s.

Posted by bigblue on 31/03/2005 at 09:58 PM
Filed under: EuropeUnited KingdomEngland • (0) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share

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