When I’ve run out of books to read on the train or I need something light to chill out to, I usually pick up a Who magazine (Australian version of People) on the way home. It had been my trashy magazine of choice since high school primarily because it actually had a lot of writing in it – at least enough to keep me busy for more than one or two trips. Over the years though I’ve noticed it’s so called “quality” degrading to the point where it isn’t any different to New Weekly or the other dodgy womens magazines. While the amount of writing has decreased it’s price has correspondingly increased and it is now enough to make me cease buying the magazine altogether. I get better goss from Trent’s blog anyway.
I spent a good 5 minutes one day scanning the stands for something to replace it but came away empty handed. Then one day I was crossing the road to Central Station and found the answer in a bright yellow safety vest. Of course! The Big Issue! Normally I avoid those guys by staring at the ground hoping to not be contaiminated by the idea that I might have to live on the street. I hate being solicited while I’m walking around town – even if I’m given free stuff, so I will go to all manners to avoid a hawker. But here I was, in a homeless persons position, wanting something from someone. I had 15 minutes reading time on the train to fill, he had a magazine that could possibly suit my purpose all for the relatively cheap price of $4.
So I took a chance and handed over my cash. He made some small talk and gave me the change back, which I thought was too much, so we had a minor argument about it until my math brain came out of isolation and realised he was right. 10 points to the homeless guy for not trying to rip off a sucker!! I thanked him and raced off to the train to read it. The front page was a revelation. It explained that $2 of the $4 I just spent went to the guy who had just sold me the magazine. The other $2 went towards the making of the magazine. I’d just done a charitable act without feeling like I was giving a handout to a beggar just because they asked me for it. Another 10 points to the big issue seller!
Inside the magazine was even better. There were interviews with Chris Martin from Coldplay, a short article by Helen Razer (who used to do morning radio on Triple J) a story about brothels and some movie, music and book reviews. This was everything I got from Who but better written with a less uptight feel (you mean they can swear in magazines? Excellent!). Admittedly the magazine is a bit leftist but that doesn’t bother me as those are my leanings anyway. All this and it’s cheaper than any magazine I can find on the newstands that rivals it.
My first purchase of the Big Issue was a unique experience where my consumerism directly contributed to the well-being of someone else without me feeling guilty and him feeling like it was a handout. I now understand why my aunt Kerri-Anne always buys a Big Issue whenever she sees someone selling it. It’s quality.