Dublin is a weird place. You will meet some of the weirdest characters that would put the likes of New York to shame in terms of oddities that you will come across in daily life. I caught up with a friend called Jody in Dublin a while back. We went to the ‘Little Museum of Dublin’ and enjoyed the five-storey Georgian building of trinkets and history. It really should be called a five-story museum because it is full to the brim with tales of the past 100 years in Dublin’s bloody, rich and diverse history. Little did me and Jody know we were about to make history with pizza and a gypsy.
After the guided tour of the museum ended, we decided to grab something to eat before getting drinks. We settled on Apache Pizza on Dame Street. I still don’t know the connection between the Apache people and pizza. Our pizza had cajun chicken, tomatoes and jalapeños. It was a decent pizza and served the purpose of filling us up before we were going for a drink. Before we left, we had to decide on who would eat the last slice.
We were both pretty full and didn’t want to eat it, but before we got to Apache Pizza, we had a discussion on just how wasteful retailers and fast food places like McDonalds are with their food. 60% of most food bought by businesses and people is wasted for pretty dumb reasons like not using food before the expiration date, dumping food that isn’t served or eaten, or heck, just all round not making the most of what you can out of the food that is bought.
Jody Jody put the slice of pizza in a napkin and wanted to either keep it for later, or give it to the nearest homeless person we could find on our way to the pub. We crossed the road onto George street and I joked about filming Jody to exploit views on YouTube like a lot of other assholes do.
We also joked that whatever homeless person we come across might tell us to ‘fuck off’ because the pizza has jalapeños. With that said, there are a lot of professional beggars in Dublin and it is hard to tell the difference between the sincere and the liars.
There is one beggar in Dublin I know quite well and I give him a Euro or two whenever I see him on the Ha’penny Bridge in the mornings around 8-10. He is a big man from Belfast and he has traveled all over the UK and Ireland, living off the charity of people who pass him on the street. He obviously has a drinking problem, but that is his vice and maybe his reason for being where he is, but I don’t judge him, I listen.
I have a lot of respect for him because two years ago, a friend of mine who also gives him money, was being hassled by a scumbag at a bus stop and the beggar we know and give money to ran from the bridge to the quays bus stop and pushed the man hassling my friend and told him to ‘fuck off’. He is a true gent and if you do happen to see him on the bridge in the mornings, give him something, or at the very least have a conversation with him.
We walked up George street, one of the streets where I have a lot of memories from buying my first guitar to buying random things in the George Street Market. Jody jokingly said “We probably won’t bump into anyone on our way up to Mary’s (A pub)”. Just as he finished his sentence and before we could chuckle, a woman out of a group of Romani Gypsy woman approached Jody and gesturing eating food said “Pizza?”, it was strange.
They were all returning from the shops. I could tell because the several women that were there had three bags of groceries each. They were coming back from their weekly shopping trip.
Jody’s intention was to give it to someone who probably needed something to eat, not to give it to a random passer-by on the street. Jody gave her the pizza and without a ‘thank you’ she grabbed it and walked on. Sure, it was free pizza, but it wasn’t the same as picking up a free slice from the sample stand at the store.
I went on holidays to a Hungarian town called Siófok (Pronounced ‘She-Fuck’) next to the beautiful Lake Balaton when I was a teenager. We went to the town center and we found a soup kitchen. Inside, it cost €2 to feed an entire family and my mother wanted to get a cheap dinner for the family. Before she brought us in, my Dad stopped her and said “it would be embarrassing for them”.
What he meant by this was that we were a family who had enough money to travel from Ireland to Hungary and stay in a rented house for two weeks. These people weren’t eating the food because it was cheap, they were eating it because they couldn’t afford anything else.
We would have broken bread with these families without feeling embarrassed, because I grew up with the mindset that you are not above anyone else, but breaking bread with these people in this case was an insult to them because we didn’t need to eat subsidized meals.
So, having a Romani Gypsy woman on the street ask for free pizza from a stranger was insulting to people who actually need it. For that matter anyone asking for the free pizza would be a really weird thing to happen. However, Romani Gypsies have a bad reputation in many parts of Europe. They are seen as the beggars of Europe and there have been a torrent of documentaries about them from prostitution to pickpocketing.
With that said, that image is wrong. There are many Romani Gypsies that integrate very well. The European Human Rights Commission has come out time and time again with reports that explain everything from government policies to the media discriminating against the Romani people across a lot of European countries with a significant Romani population.
I can respect the Romani people in the sense that for a long-time they were a people who didn’t hold allegiance to the country they lived in, or associated with anything other than themselves and their families. They also don’t hold an origin tale or a homeland. They are a people without strings who attach more importance to family ties than they do with anything else.
It is true that there are a lot of problems between integration and culture disparity, but that should not mean that the greater Romani community around Europe and the rest of the world should be painted with the same brush.
I was freaked out and thought less of the woman when she asked for the pizza and I did paint the Romani people with one thick brush, and it was wrong of me. I have seen Romani people in Ireland in two capacities, the first being classmates that I got on well with in school, and the second being beggars on the street pretending to be homeless.
I identify the woman as a Romani Gypsy because the Romani beggars in Dublin have taken attention away from the real homeless people who aren’t just Irish, but from a lot of different places. With all that said and done, taking pizza from a stranger on the street is still weird, maybe if she was begging and asked, it would fine, but coming up to a stranger on the street and asking for a piece of pizza, now that is weird.
I try to take people as they come and I am always welcoming to take people on a case-by-case basis. There is no doubt that the media in Europe has got a boner to discriminate against Romani people. This weird encounter had brought my own preconceived notions into the fray and made me consider my own process for how I view people.
I still think that particular woman was wrong to ask for that pizza. She was coming out of the shops with food in her shopping bags. People who aren’t struggling don’t go to food banks because it can save them a few pennies. Tourists don’t stay in emergency homeless shelters to save a few bucks on a hotel. Taking this by means of a case-by-case basis, that woman wasn’t right to take pizza from a stranger on the street.
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