I was rich for a night last night. I didn't like it much.
I've always instinctively hated rich people - you know the ones I mean, big, red-faced fat cats with swanky outfits, laughing it up at fancy dinners or awards shows, smoking cigars and drinking port or brandy, swanning about in luxurious hotels while yards away people are starving in the street, freezing to death. Why can't they take some of that money and do some good with it? They have no idea, they don't even care.
I work for a computer training company, and we were nominated for 2 awards at the IT Training Awards last night. Me and my girlfriend went along with our boss and some other people. I had to hire a dinner jacket (translation for Merkins and other aliens: tuxedo), shirt and bow tie - it was a black tie affair at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Jo got her hair done, wore a fancy dress, and we both looked pretty fucking sexy, thanks very much. When we arrived, we were taken aback at how rich it all was. Huge rooms, with vases that cost more than our apartment, ornate chairs, even the toilets were like palaces. We felt very uncomfortable, and poor. The waiters were all calling me sir, and avoiding my eyes, which freaked me out. Everyone else there seemed to enjoy themselves - we had fun, don't get me wrong, we won 2 awards and went up on stage to collect it, as they played the music from Star Trek: The Next Generation (one of the most surreal experiences of my life). We got drunk on the free booze, had a fabulous dinner, and had a good laugh.
When we left, we went through a subway to get to the train - we couldn't find it straight away. A homeless guy saw us floundering, and kindly gave us directions, without us even asking - he didn't want anything for it, and was really friendly. We were then struck with the biggest attack of guilt of our lives. We had become exactly what we hated. Stuffing our faces in impossibly rich surroundings, while just outside a man was struggling to keep warm, a fucking human being, who didn't even have a place to live, Christ, who was denied the basic human right of a roof over his head. I emptied my wallet into his change box, he thanked me, and wished us a happy evening.
I haven't felt such guilt since my Catholic childhood... We had bocame the enemy, and it was more of an eye-opener than seeing the other side. If we'd seen what it was like to be really poor, we'd have gone aw, shucks, isn't life cruel, and would have forgotten all about it after a while. But suddenly realising you are going against all your principles, being a fucking hypocrite, is far, far worse.
The dinner itself, for all those people, must have cost at least £5000 - that's just for the food. God knows how much it cost to rent the huge room at the hotel, or to hire Fiona Armstrong (D-list UK celeb) to read out the awards. Free wine all night, free champagne, everyone buying outfits - the amount of money that could have gone to good causes is sickening. There was a charity auction in aid of ChildLine before the awards were handed out - before it started, a woman from the charity came on, and had to fucking embarrass herself asking for money from these rich fucks - people were chatting and not listening, I wanted to grab the mike and scream at them to pay attention, have you no soul, how do you sleep at nights? (No, I know I don't like children, true, but I don't want them being abused, nobody does). Every day 15,000 children ring ChildLine - they only have the resources to answer 3,500 of those calls. Scared, abused, damaged children - and here we are throwing money away on a free evening for a bunch of rich cunts who could easily afford to pay for themselves.
It's naive to say hey, why not give all that money to charity - but we have a plan. I spent £36 renting my monkey suit, Jo spent £40 getting her hair done at a fancy place, another 15 quid on various accessories, and a fiver for a taxi - £96 we spent living it up with the pigs. Next year, instead of going to the awards again, we're going to round that figure up to £100, and just give the money to charity instead. Sure, it's a small thing, and mainly to assuage our guilt feelings, make ourselves feel better, call it what you will - but it can't hurt, and can only do good. I don't want to sound like one of those pop stars or actors at the Oscars who suddenly drone on about the plight of the people in Eastern Elbonia, but we really should all be helping each other - if you've read this far, and you can spare a few quid every month, do some good with it. If you have some spare time, do some good with it. Just do some good. Please.