It’s not often that I get fooled, but this morning I was completely caught off guard by a gypsy mother and her child.
It all began as five of us were sitting at our hotel having breakfast. We’d just awoken from a comfortable night’s sleep and warm shower, and had a big breakfast to boot. While finishing our coffee, my friends Brenda and Diane were looking out the window and noticed a gypsy woman with her small child across the street. She, like most “beggar” women I’ve encountered, was covered head to toe in dirty clothes, sat in a miserably uncomfortable position in front of the post office, and had her child not in her arms but in a pram. The pram was a bit out of character, but everything else looked normal. Well, Brenda and Dianne were sitting at the breakfast table feeling really sorry for this mother and her kid. At one point, the kid must have been making a fuss and the young mother started slapping him to make him be quiet and lay down in the pram. Soon Walter and Perry (the husbands of Brenda and Diane) and myself were drawn into the spectacle of the scene unfolding on the street below.
Now I had seen this image countless times as the beggar mother looked pitiful and held out a cup for spare euro change. She shook it and moaned something in some indiscernible language which I know translates into “Give some money. I’m hungry, you sucker.” It’s all a sham, an act, and they are really out to steal from us in the end. I tried to convince the others that this is how we get suckered into giving the gypsy-sorts money. Walter decided to challenge me and give her a couple of oranges from the breakfast table. I told him the gypsy mother would give him a look of disgust and throw them back at him.
Soon we were watching from the window above as Walter crossed the street, went to the young mother, and took out two oranges. As he handed them to her, even from our position some 200 feet away, we could see a big smile across her face and immediately the young child poped up from his pram and was reaching longingly for the orange. The young girl had it pealed in a minute and gave it to the kid who devoured it. In the meantime, the mom peeled the other orange for herself and began eating. Walter did not see this happen because he was walking away fully expecting to be hit it the back of his head with a flying orange as I had predicted.
Needless to say I was totally wrong in my prediction! Watching through the window two stories above the street, we saw Walter walk back to the young woman, place some change in her cup, give her a word of encouragement, and then give her a few more euro. Up above I sat at the table in shame recalling my thought that the young woman was a con artist. At that moment, everyone began going back to the breakfast buffet for seconds and loading up their bags and purses with food for the poor mother and her child. After it was all done, I think she got fifteen or so euro and plenty to eat for the rest of the day.
I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow morning.