The Cappuccino and the Bus Fare
“Just a medium extra hot skinny cappuccino to go, please… Oh and I’ll take some of those ginger biscuits too.”
Ever the sweet tooth, I couldn’t resist the shameless marketing ploy of the world-dominating coffee chain to turn us all into sugar addicts.
“That’s £4.70 please.” She said, juggling her Barista paraphernalia around in noisy, orchestrated chaos.
Bloody hell, not much change from a fiver I pondered, looking blankly down at my two measly silver coins as she duly stamped my tatty old dog-eared loyalty card.
Oh well, that’s the going rate for a fully branded caffeine hit nowadays.
I headed off to work.
He came into my office. His eagle eyes wily and alert – he doesn’t miss much.
“Hey, come on in. Sit down.” I offered. He rarely sits down – perhaps it’s the energy drinks. “So, what are we going to do about this here bus fare scenario then?” I continued.
The situation is this: he has already completed an extended work placement with us whilst he looks for employment. He’s worked hard. He’s increased his skill set, his knowledge, and he feels like he belongs. His whole demeanor is more confident – more positive. It’s a win / win.
But, alas, The System has stepped in and declared “ENOUGH. ENOUGH OF A GOOD THING. BACK TO MINDLESS, SOULLESS, SOLITARY JOB SEARCHING. TOO MUCH POSITIVITY GOING ON HERE. REVERT TO FORM.”
They won’t pay his bus fares to enable him to come along and build on his invaluable work experience whilst he continues to grow, develop and find his feet. Let alone contribute to a worthwhile community project. That’s that kiboshed.
So we – the charity – must take the hit. We do what we can, on the meagre budget we have. It isn’t a lot, but we can cover a couple of weeks’ bus fares, at least. We’re talking about pounds and pence. God knows, we try.
“Right, we’ll see you next week then” I say, expectantly.
“Oh no, it’ll have to be the week after.” he says.
“Sorry? What do you mean?” I ask, genuinely perplexed. “We can cover your bus fares for the next couple of weeks. What’s the problem with next week?” I feel like I’ve missed something important, but I don’t know what.
“Well, I’ll have to save up next week for the £4.70 to get me here the following week” he says.
Of course! I feel stupid, ignorant, and…frivolous. I think back to my cappuccino, and the presumption of affordability. I placed my card on a small machine and it took an invisible payment from my invisible stash of invisible money. It was that easy.
I looked at him, and I felt utterly foolish. Why did I presume he would have £4.70 for the bus fare? Why would he not have to save up for that, and account for every other penny?
Maybe he can see those thoughts flashing through my mind. He doesn’t miss a trick, remember?
“Oh, yep. Of course.” I try not to sound patronising and utterly condescending. “Yep. Fine. See you on the 23rd then.”
He may not have a Costa loyalty card, but he’s got a hell of a lot of dignity.