Coming out of Fry’s Grocery Store with a cart full of party supplies, I saw a young man standing in the parking lot with his hood up. He has an older car and there is a foil heat guard behind the windshield. I walked right on by and headed for my car. After a moment, I stopped and backed up to ask him if he needed a jump…then the story began. “Sir, we just came from Casa Grande and the alternator light came on. I had the alternator replaced and got as far as exit 263 and had to pull over. I made it to here and had the battery checked and it has 3 dead cells. A jump won’t help. I need a new battery and I’m $14 short. We don’t have any money and I’m trying to get to my home in Sierra Vista. I don’t have family to call and I used all my credit up getting the alternator fixed.”
This holey story is a variation of one that I’ve heard many times at many different locations. One time in Salt Lake City, a young man approached me and a friend on the sidewalk. We were coming from lunch and headed back to the conventions center. The young man was in tears, pleading with us for help. His story was compelling. He was there in Salt Lake City to visit his mother. He was from Texas and showed us his Texas driver’s license. I don’t remember how he came to the situation where he had to beg but his performance deserved an Oscar…unfortunately for him; my friend had seen his exact same performance the day before. At that time, the person he was with gave the young man $20. Honestly, I was reaching for my wallet to give him some money. He dropped his performance and started to argue with my friend. It was apparent that instead of giving him money, I should have given him applause for the outstanding performance.
When I was working and had to travel to the Los Angeles airport numerous times. There was a gas station close to the airport that I often used to fill up my rental car before turning it in. I was approached many times by many different people while fueling up my rental. The story was always similar, “Sir, could you help me out? My family is stuck on the freeway and I need $35 (or some other number) for a new tire (or battery).” As I said, the stories were similar so you may excuse my apparent inhumanity in the following tale:
On one trip, I had a bad ear infection and feeling quite miserable. I was in a bad mood because I was about to take a six hour flight back to Washington D.C. I was in my Air Force uniform. A young man made his appeal from the other side of the rental car I was refueling. “Sir, could you help me out…” I didn’t say anything just stared at his face very intently until he finished talking. Then I said to him with a nasally accent, “I’m sorry. I’m deaf.” He looked at me with a look that said “I know you’re lying.” and I looked back at him with a look that said “I know you’re lying too.” He chuckled and shuffled along and I finished filling the car.
Back to the young man at Fry’s Grocery Store…I looked at the 3 six packs of beer and other party supplies in my shopping cart. I realized that life’s pretty good for me as I head back to my truck with a working air conditioner. This young man is begging for money in the hot sun with his family sitting in his apparently dead car. I’m sure he was not being truthful but on the other hand there is the possibility that he truly could use some help. I gave him a fiver and wished him luck…