ate Saturday night (11...11:30PM), I make a run to the grocery store for a few things. As I pull into my parking space, I illuminate a guy in his late 20's/early 30's, talking to a little black boy, about 8 or 9 years old, near the guy's car. Since the older guy is looking so intense, but not angry, whilst talking to the little boy, I wonder what's up.
As I get out of the car, the older guy immediately approaches me and asks if I have a cellphone. I think "Oh boy, what did I just walk into?" Then the guy says, in a concerned tone of voice, "His parents locked him out of the house and he can't get back inside. He just asked me for 50¢ so he could buy a Coke." I say "Oh. Sure, just a sec," and I get back in the car and retrieve my cellphone. With a raised eyebrow, I offer it to the kid, asking "What's the phone number?"
Before this story gets too far ahead of itself, let me clue you into a few things: [1
] There are apartments & condos within walking distance of the grocery store's/shopping center's huge parking lot. [2
] The weather had turned chilly that night, in the mid 40's. [3
] I'd seen this kid before and he knew it. The whole 50¢
thing is what tipped me off.
The little boy starts to back away from the both of us, in the direction of the apartments, telling us that "It's okay," while the older guy, obviously concerned, says "No man, it's not okay. It's cold out here," then turning to me to say "We gotta call the police or something. He says his parents locked him out. That's just not right." By this time, the kid is halfway across the parking lot, probably
thinking what suckers we are, or how he just got caught in a LIE.
I turn to the guy, who is adorably cute & clueless, and tell him not to worry, that the kid isn't locked out and that he does this shit all the time, apparently, day or night. It's his schtick. I've seen him before, usually during the day, and he waits outside the exit and asks people if they have 50¢. The guy, obviously still disturbed by the fact that alleged
little boy + locked out + cold weather= bad, is still missing the big picture. He says "You think his parents get him to do it?" then follows up with "I tried to get him to go inside with me, so we could tell the manager (of the grocery store), but he didn't want to do that." I say "Yeah, and if he was really
locked out, he would have been more receptive to getting help. Notice how he's retreated, quite quickly once things started to get complicated. Trust me, he's not locked out. He does this all the time." The poor guy is obviously still somewhat bothered by the whole 'locked out' scenario, but he listens to reason and thanks me for clueing him in. I say "Sure, no problem," and head for the store entrance.
First off, emotionally, I'm all over the map when it comes to this situation. First off, it royally PISSES ME OFF that the little scumbag is lying to people to bilk them out of their money, however small the amount. It's not cute, it's not harmless and it sets a precedent. Secondly, it renews my faith in humanity when I see people like the nice guy, who still genuinely want to help out a stranger. And third, it also makes me really sad that because of fuckups like this con-artist kid, people like me are cynical and skeptical.
It's shit like this (combined with other negative experiences with panhandlers) that have molded me into the skeptic that I am today. I am a homeless (Allegedly.
They could just be lazy, for all I know) person/panhandler MAGNET. I swear to God, I could be in a crowd of 50 people and they'd hone in on me like they had radar installed. Here's just some
of my experiences with the lowlives:
] Having read a heart-warming Dear Abby
column recently, as to what to do when homeless people ask for money, Abby
suggested that instead of giving them money (for those that just use it to buy more alcohol), to buy them a meal at a nearby fast food establishment.
Ever the ideological moron, I did this one day after being approached at a stop light by a homeless man. I drove down the street and bought him a hamburger combo at a Wendy's
, drove back and gave it to him. Instead of gratitude, I was met with "I don't like lettuce/tomatoes/Coke
, etc." while rummaging through the bag. I drove away feeling foolish and vowing to never again fall for the 'routine,' instead opting to just give anyone/everyone a blanket "No."
Of course, being a sympathetic idiot, I have
sense given some truly needy/appreciative people some change and they have indeed gone and bought food with it. Not to get all Jesuslicious, but it's like that old saying "There but for the grace of God go I." I'm not sure what all the theological implications of that saying are, but for me, I interpret as "It could be me."
] Having just got in my car, still sitting in the parking lot of the sub shop I just came out of, I was in the process of putting my seatbelt on when I hear someone tapping on my driver-side window. First off, it scared the shit outta me and secondly, when I looked up and saw that it was some panhandler guy, I just shook my head and said "No." Forever the creative liar, he's quick to say "No, I just wanted to ask you where the bus stop is," in a tone that says 'Geez, you're paranoid.' I point to the bench 10 paces DIRECTLY BEHIND HIM and think "Whatever, dick. You fuckin' liar. You got pegged correctly the first time and that's your quick 'damage control'-routine." I just hate people...most of the time, but not always.
So, in the end I'll probably get conked on the head by some homicidal loser, because I let them approach me because I was too worried I'd appear 'paranoid' if I hurried to my car and locked the door instead of hearing what they have to say. Oh, and BTW, I've stopped
feeling guilty about locking my door when someone is nearby and I'm sitting in the parking lot, at a stop light, etc. I used to feel guilty if the person happened to be black or Hispanic or whatever, but you know what? It's not a minority thing, it's an EVERYONE thing, so if the person feels like "That's racist," fuck them. I'm an equal opportunity distruster (it's a word!), so there. Deal with it...or don't.