I cursed as I braked. I just missed the green light. It was now red and it would take another 156 seconds before it turned back into green. It was peak traffic time. The weather was very chilly and even the inside of my heater-less car was freezing. It was the usual route. And she was the usual beggar girl doing the rounds knocking at the windows of the cars. They avoided the two-wheelers – they didnt expect much from them.They had a carefully targeted consumer segment. So what did these beggars sell? They sold you the satisfaction that you did a good deed today. That you\’ve been kind and generous.
It had been a bad day for me at the office. And missing the green light wasn\’t helping to calm me down. The beggar girl knocked at my window. I shoo\’ed her away. She wore scraps of cloth and was shivering as if she was going to collapse and die any moment. But that was just a trick to make you feel more sympathetic. I knew that. The greater the pain, the more you pay and the bigger is your consumer surplus. She went to the car in front of me. The sucker started to give her a coin.She took it with a pained face. Of course she was acting. But I\’m sure the sucker got his money\’s worth out of that class act.
The light turned green. I was impatient. I honked rudely. More so coz the car ahead was delaying by paying that beggar girl. Was I being cruel?
The girl quickly hopped and sat on the pavement laughing and giggling with her other colleagues. That made me madder! But then, with a realisation, I sported a crooked smile on my face. Its just another job and they\’re good at it! Even though their boss – God – has not been very supportive.
I drove on. A bit placated.
PS: Read Peter Foster\’s interesting blog post on this topic.