Friday, November 9, 2012

a little help?

The first thing I noticed was the stuffed animal.  Or, I think it was an animal.  It was blue and ratty with light green eyes.  It was dangling from a small duffle/backpack.  There was another small nylon pouch-like bag hanging from the other side.

I'd just exited the art supply store where I'd picked up some pretty paper and was walking behind this girl who had just passed by the door.  In addition to the things hanging off her back, I noticed her wavy dark hair pulled into a ponytail.  She had on a pair of grey sweats tucked into black suede, flat-heeled boots.

I walked toward my bicycle that was locked to a post.  As I pulled out my keys, she became aware of me and turned.

"Excuse me... (polite pause)... Do you have thirty-five cents?"

She had a bit of a homeless waif look about her.  She was young, though.  Twenty maybe?  I found her simple yet specific request a bit odd.  Thirty-five cents.

Also, in those seven short words, I detected intelligence.  I've been approached by panhandlers before.  Then there are those who set up at opportunistic intersections with cardboard signs.  But I think it's safe to say that no panhandler with intelligent eyes has ever specifically asked me for thirty-five cents and in such a clear, polite, intelligent sounding voice.

This all made me curious about her story.  I pulled out my wallet and rummaged a quarter and a dime.  I found myself wanting to give her more.  I often don't trust panhandlers, but I trusted that she really just wanted thirty-five cents.

I placed the coins in her grimy hand, and she thanked me in that same intelligent way.

That was the end of our exchange.  I went back to unlocking my bicycle.  As I went to pull out of the parking lot, I looked back in her direction.  She'd continued to the grocery store and was putting the coins into one of the pop machines out front.

So I wonder about her.  Was she really needy?  If so, how did she end up in that position?  Part of me wonders if it's not all a social experiment?  Downtown, there is a small, expensive, private college.  I've tutored there, and a lot of the students dress similarly to that girl.  It's just their style.  The homeless look.

When I was in college, a shanty town was constructed on campus, in an act of solidarity for South Africa.  It was big.  It was trashy.  Some people complained.

The college administrators didn't worry about it too much.  Seems they had a plan.  Spring break came around, the poor rich shanty town residents left for Mazatlan and Acapulco, the whole thing was then torn down without a fight.  I witnessed it since I stuck around to get in some extra work hours at my lowly retail job.

Is the girl doing a social experiment?  Does she have an address?  I know first impressions can be wrong, but something just seemed a little off.

Thirty-five cents worth of pondering.


Guano said...

Yup. Thatsa lotta pondering...for want of a soda.

Abby said...

tsk, I know. All that for empty calories.

Linda Hensley said...

I'd say that was worth 35 cents, but I might've gotten irritable that if she's actually that thirsty she should've gotten some water somewhere. As for your step-mother wanting to pay you, there's no good answer. If you say the truth of how much it's worth, she freaks. If you say this is how much it's worth, but I want to give it to you out of love, she'll still freak, but now she thinks you're guilt tripping her or something, plus you obviously think too highly of yourself and need knocked down a bit. If you give her a cheap price, then she thinks you aren't worth much. No good answer at all. I'd suggest you pass to your husband and let him take the hell :)

ShadowRun300 said...

I run into quite a few panhandlers while working in the city. I think they're looking for more than 35 cents.
I wonder if your girl had a wallet full of bills, but no change for the soda machine. I'd rather think that maybe she's trying out a social experiment though.
Either way, 35 cents well spent for a good blog topic! ;)

lotta joy said...

There's been a scam going on in our area. You park in a grocery store lot and you see them immediately. A man and a woman coming in your direction. They point to their car and ask if they could borrow $$$ for gas because they're grandma and child are in the hot car.

Stud always pulls his wallet out.

I always wonder: HOW did they get there, specifically, and park, and run out of gas. And why is it always an old woman and a baby. Yep. The old woman and baby gets to your heart strings.

Then we had the same spiel at two other parking lots.

They worked this area for several weeks, then moved on.

35 cents? I'd say she needed that coke and wanted the exact change: yours.

Jimmy said...

35 cents is a minor amount most people wouldn't question, myself I would have most likely have given her more, I most likely get taken at times but I figure I rather run that risk than say no to someone who really needs it.

Could have been a social experiment though.

Abby said...

Linda, the voice of reason as always...

Abby said...

Maybe that's it - never carries anything smaller than a 20. I hope she's one of those rich college kids, and the ratty stuffed animal is all a ruse!

Abby said...

Woo, I was approached a couple of years ago in a parking lot by a woman with that same story! I wondered too about how they "just happened" to run out of gas in a parking lot.

Abby said...

Yeah, it was weird. If she would have asked for "money", I would have been leery, but 35 cents? Made me want to give her 20 bucks.

Rebecca S. said...

Hmmmm...interesting. I would trust your instincts on this one. You gave her the 35 cents, which is what she asked of you, and it didn't hurt to give it to her. Social experiment or not, you come out looking good, and she gets her drink.

LL Cool Joe said...

Hmm I would just have to have stuck up a conversation with her, I couldn't have left it like that! :D

grace matthew said...

That's a lot to ponder about. But what's a 35 cents to give if you're helping others. It's just money. You'll be able to earn it.
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meleah rebeccah said...

Hmmmm.... that is weird. I often look "homeless" as I have been known to go shopping, in public, in my pajamas, but the 35 cent request wasn't very much and I definitely would have given it to her also.

Anita said...

If you want a soda and you're not too ashamed to ask someone else to buy it for you (indirectly), then I guess that's how it works??

Like Joe, I would have started a conversation... if I wasn't too caught off guard to do so.

Funny how the shanty town kids left for their ritzy vacations! lol

terri said...

Yeah, something's definitely different here. She didn't ask if you could spare some change. She asked for a specific and very small amount of money. I think I would have assumed she was homeless, but... I dunno. Social experiment, maybe... But then you'd think she'd really have been working hard to pull off the homeless persona.

I've had something vaguely similar on my mind lately. Might write about him...