‘I tried to be the ‘Nice Guy’… it didn’t work out.’

Words by Tim Sujak.

I’m not what you’d call a ‘nice guy’ but I’m not a terrible human being, either. I like to think I’m somewhere in-between. I mean really, what is a ‘nice guy’ if he’s not just a jerk who’s really good at acting?

Most hetero ‘nice guys’ just want to inhabit your vagina for a bit and then disappear into oblivion. The real nice guys who aren’t just planning on playing penis-pool with your clitoral billiard ball are some sort of… weird space-unicorns, so we won’t bother with them here. Freaks, honestly…

At one point in my life, I remember doing something not because I would normally do it but because it’s typical of what a ‘nice guy’ would do. And of course – being the deeply shallow individual I am – it was all to impress a girl.

My lady friend and I were sitting at a train station when a homeless man approached us. He was wearing the traditional ‘homeless guy’ attire, and had on a pair of yellowy-grey sneakers that I’m guessing used to be white; jeans that were too big for him; a heavy dark jacket with the metre-long sleeves rolled up; and a trucker cap from back when trucker caps were still considered cool (December 2004 – February 2005).

Adhering to the strict script of ‘A Life in Poverty: The Musical’, the guy asks us for some spare change to buy a hot meal.

My lady friend, however, was not interested in playing the age-old game of ‘Give the Homeless Guy Three Bucks to Show Everyone How Good of a Person I Am’. Instead, she was raring to go with ‘I Want My Monetary Contribution to Significantly Help This Man’, because she was that kind of person – she worked with disabled people full-time and was incredibly passionate about helping those less fortunate or even those just down on their luck. Me? I was passionate about Playstation.

My lady friend – let’s call her… Jane – Jane gave around thirty or so dollars to this guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more grateful and relieved face since then. The homeless guy must’ve thanked Jane about six times. What a happy camper.

But now I was faced with a predicament universal to most super-neurotic-upper-middle-lower-class-citizens: how much change do I give the homeless? If I give too little, I’ll look cheap. But if I give too much, I’ll look like I’m trying too hard not to look cheap. Is there a ‘silver coin only’ rule? Does note-money constitute faux-philanthropy? I know they’re not human vending machines… But would I get change back if I only had $100? I mean, I’d have to give them something! But what about me? And gold coins? Do I just give them all the spare change I have? But what’s ‘spare change’, really? Isn’t it just money I haven’t used yet? Can you have $50, 000 dollars in coins and it still be considered ‘spare change’?

More importantly, why am I thinking about these things when this guy’s standing right in front of me, waiting for some spare change?

I have to make a decision – this guy hasn’t got all day.

And then I realise that I don’t even know how much money I have in my wallet. What if I have none? Do I have to go out of my way to an ATM and get some out? But then, I’m back to square one: how much, etc., etc. Turns out, I had a twenty and a fifty.

I can’t give less than Jane – I’ve got a chance to really make a difference here: to help someone out. I mean, sure, it’s me I’m helping out at the end of the day (by using this poor homeless dude as my human kindness/charity receptacle) but does that matter? Who cares about motive when you’re given money? The answers are ‘No’ and ‘Nobody’, respectively, so I gave the guy the $50. That’s fifty bucks of goodwill coming my way, thanks to the glory of karma – a wise investment, I figured. I mean, the universe doesn’t know if you’re doing good things for less-than-good reasons, does it?

Whether it does or it doesn’t, the homeless guy must’ve been so worn-out from expressing $30 gratitude that to almost double his gratitude expression for me was just too much to ask. He thanked us (emphasis on the ‘us’ – there was no direct ‘thank you’ to me, not even a ‘thanks’ with some eye contact. I don’t think he even looked at me for longer than a solid three seconds) and continued on his grand quest for more change.

I felt robbed.

Jane smiled and probably never gave that moment a single thought. And yeah, I smiled back – but here I am, almost four years later, all because a poor homeless guy didn’t give me as much recognition for my super, Richard Branson-esque altruism as I had hoped for. Surely I’m not that petty. Jane and I aren’t even friends anymore – guess she thought I should’ve given him a kidney.

Less than a week after that exchange I was out with some friends in the city, and guess who we run into! Yup, it’s the same homeless guy from a few days ago. Except now he’s wearing a pair of low-top sneakers, tight beige pants and a faded t-shirt along with a wristwatch. This guy’s pants looked cleaner than my jeans did and I’m pretty sure his shoes had fewer holes in them, too. He looked like one of those homeless people from Fitzroy, where you can’t tell if they’re homeless or just hipster. How did he rake in that much cash for such a fashionable ensemble? Didn’t he say he needed money for food? Is style really that much of a concern when you’re freezing your balls off?

Anyway, he walks up to us and lo and behold, asks us for some change.

This time, it’s not ‘spare change’ but simply ‘change’ – he’s definitely in the big leagues now. My friends give him a few bucks each and then he turns to me, with seemingly no recognition of the sizeable donation I had made recently to the Help-A-Homeless-Dude-Get-Hipster Foundation. I mean, sure, a giant statue of me made out of empty cans would’ve been cool, but I’m not picky. I also would’ve accepted an aluminium foil hat or crown. I could’ve been their King. But it didn’t look like I’d be having loyal subjects to rule over anytime soon. Still, I had to know for sure.

“Hey man, d’you remember me?”

“Nope, sorry.”

Wow. How dare this man, who has to find a safe place to sleep every night not remember me, a guy with a bed from IKEA (that Swedish LEGO store for grown-ups)?

“Really? Cos I helped you out a few days ago. Y’know, with a BIG favour”.

I even alluded to how large that particular favour was, utilising my unrivalled miming skills where you place both hands fairly far apart from each other horizontally to physically signify just how big ‘big’ actually is.

But of course this guy would remember my face, especially since I did the hand thing… It’s not like he operates as a lonely sailor amid a vast sea of nameless faces, day in, day out.

“I see a lotta people every day.”

And that was it.

Oh, I bet you do, Mr. Homeless man.

I bet. You do.

You win this round.

I didn’t end up giving him any change. BUT I did get long incredulous looks from both my friends.

At the end of the day, the guy was homeless and I wasn’t. It might not have mattered to him if he got money outta the kindness of my heart or my, ahem, ‘soul’. But if you want to look like a nice guy just to obscure your major prickishness and total indifference towards all human life (apart from your own), then by all means go for it, you Patrick-Bateman-worshipping-psychotic.

But to this genuine jerk-off, playing the nice guy just isn’t worth it (I’m much too lazy) – wouldn’t it be a more productive use of my time to just complain on the internet?

Tim is 23, an Honours graduate/writer/musician/other adjectives for unemployed, and a real nice guy from Melbourne.

You can follow Tim on Facebook or on his fortnightly route to collect your hard-earned tax dollars from Centrelink.

In your twenties and have a story to share? Email the20sdiary@gmail.com to get your words published.