Wednesday, January 5, 2011

conundrum of an early morning visitor

A completley unrelated photo of the grandchildren playing with
Glow sticks on New Years Eve - my last photo for 2010!

This is something I need some feedback on. This morning around 3.00am the dog started barking furiously, then the doorbell rang, after I had struggled out of a deep sleep, stumbled around the house to get a dressing gown and got my head together I turned on the front porch light and asked who it was, of course fearing that it was the police bringing bad news about someone or some other crisis.

The reply was,
'hello love, my name is Val and I need to get back to Box Hill and don't have any money - could you give me some money for a taxi?"

I could see through the glass a short, older slightly dishevelled woman with a shaved head. The dog was continuing to bark, Val continued talking along the lines of she was a pensioner - (she held up her pension card to the glass so I could see) , she didn't want to be a nuisance, but if I could help her get home she would appreciate it.

Now, I am used to dealing with people who are less fortunate than I am and who may be a little confused or even aggravated. Where I work we have a needle exchange and I never get fussed if I am working late and someone rings the bell to get a pack for the night. I deal quite calmly with people who 'lose it', who are agitated or upset. I often give money to the people who frequent Melbourne's streets asking for money. I am intrigued that most commonly they say they need it for fares to get home and home is always a long way away (we must have the best travelled asking for money class around the world), but I also feel comfortable saying no when I feel like it, though I generally try to be pleasant about it. I cope with all of that. I see myself as a compassionate person, and have a problem managing money because I generally don't see that I have a greater right to it than anybody else. But somehow this door to door approach threw me completely,

First I thought 'well she might really be distressed and unable to get home - I can't just leave her on my doorstep'. Then I thought, 'but what if there is a whole gang of people (or even one) behind her waiting to rush the door to attack me and the doona stealing weasel (henceforth known as the DSW) , and take me down to the ATM to steal all our hard earned cash - and they probably wouldn't shut the door behind them, leaving the dog at risk of escaping or getting squished by a passing car.' Then I thought 'why me - do I have some kind of light over my head saying come and have a go at me, I am a sucker?'. Then it was ' but she looks harmless enough and what if I don't give her money and she gets attacked on the way home and suffers post traumatic distress for the rest of her life.' The DSW was of a mind to just pretend it wasn't happening and go back to bed.

I decided to give her some money but wanted to work out a way of doing it where I would not feel unsafe. I looked in my wallet and had two $50.00 notes - oh no if I give her that much that would be a green flag to just keep on coming back. I scrabbled around for a five dollar note and the change I had in my wallet and put it into an envelope and opened the side door, called to her and left it on the car. 'Thanks love' she shouted through the closed door, 'how do I get to Box Hill?' I opened the door a crack and pointed to the main road and told her she would find a taxi there and she wandered off.

The dog finally stopped barking, the DSW went back to bed and started snoring. And I was left.. wondering.... had I done the right thing? Should I have called her a taxi and paid the taxi driver? What was she doing walking down our street at 3.00 in the morning (no shops or pubs or other public gathering places)? Should I have called the police - what if she was casing the houses in our street for burglary? What if she had come to the side door which was unlocked and just walked in the house? Would we have woken up? Would she have woken us up?

It unsettled me, usually I don't worry about locking doors or windows. But now I went around and locked all the doors - too many windows to worry about! I was suddenly aware of how many windows there were in the house and how completeley insecure it was. I could not sleep for the rest of the night. Was she aware of how unsettled she had made me feel? Would she care if she was? How unsettled and difficult must her life be for her to do that - leaving herself so vulnerable?

So my conundrum (or is it a dilemma?) is how does one deal with such situations while retaining a sense of safety and a level of compassion and concern for our fellow human beings?

Oh and the relation to food - to calm myself down I had a lovely piece of the third pavlova I have ever made (sorry still no photo) and a nice cup of green tea.(Should I have offered her pavlova? - it was very good, crisp and crusty outside, soft and marshmallowy on the inside). I pondered opening a small bottle of Prosecco that was in the fridge but thought that could contribute to a sense of nervousness rather than calm me down.

Next blog I will tell you the story of our escapist blow up beach toy, but for the moment I would welcome your advice - what should I do if it happens again - what would you do? And what would you eat or drink to comfort yourself afterwards?

1 comment:

  1. This sounds quite bizarre, I could imagine it would have been pretty unsettling. I do think you handled it with the perfect balance of compassion and regard for your own safety.

    Two things that come to mind reading this - there's only so much we can do, and sometimes there's only so much we should do. Yes, sometimes individuals are trapped in bad situations or have a string of bad luck (and that's why we need a solid financial safety net and strong social support services), but people also make choices, good and bad, and it's not always our role to 'interfere' with these choices. I'm not sure I'm making any sense here, and I'm definitely not saying it's always all about individual responsibility, but there needs to be a balance, doesn't there? And that's part of the reason why I think you handled it perfectly.

    Here's to no more late night interruptions...