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Monday, January 10, 2011

Can I Have $5.00?

Photo: IndyDina
I’m a big guy, but for some reason, that doesn’t stop strangers from approaching me in parking lots for all sorts of crazy reasons. It happened again a few days ago.

But let me back up a little.

Maybe five years ago, I came out of a Hy-Vee and a kid, who was probably 19, approached me. He had a pamphlet he wanted me to take. The edges of the top page were dark – as if he had made photocopies from photocopies. As he attempted to hand it to me, he said he was from the Communist Party USA and I needed to read what they had to say. Umm, no thanks.

A couple of years ago, a guy who was maybe 25 and clearly intoxicated, stumbled toward me in a Walgreens parking lot. He said he wanted money for cab fare because he had to get to his sister’s house. I refused him, politely, not at all convinced his intentions were honest.

“You’re going to do me that way?” he said.

“What way?” I said.

“You’re just going to punk me like that?”

“I guess so.”

“You’re a big guy, but I’m not afraid of you.”

“I’m not afraid of you either.”

He hesitated and seemed as if he were about to give up. As I opened my car door, he lifted one of his legs as if he were going to kick my front corner panel. I started toward him, prepared for a fight if necessary, but before he could even complete his kick, he stumbled backward and was unable to complete his mission. I think that embarrassed him, so he gave up, hurling insults at me as he left.

Last year, as I was putting groceries in my trunk at the same Hy-Vee parking lot where communists do their recruiting, a couple approached me. The man had long gray hair, pulled back into a neat ponytail. The woman seemed younger by maybe 10 years. He did all the talking. They didn’t have a penny to their names and they coasted into Omaha on fumes. If they could just get enough money to fill their gas tank they could live in their car until they figured things out.

I offered to call a local homeless shelter for them so they would have a place to eat and sleep for a while. The man gave me the stink eye and said, “We’re not going to a homeless shelter.”

Not long after that, a woman approached me in a different grocery store parking lot, desperate for cab fare. She needed to get to her sister’s house on the other side of town. I offered to call her sister, but she refused. She just needed the money for the cab fare. I declined.

Not long ago, an intoxicated man approached me in the parking lot of a Dollar Tree store. He wanted $5.00, no excuses given. The answer was still no.

A few days ago, the same woman who needed cab fare to get to her sister’s house on the other side of town approached me in the same grocery store parking lot with the same story. I just shook my head.

I’ve been approached many more times than I’ve listed here and in every case someone wanted something from me – even the communist, who wanted my time. The thing is, I don’t wonder if I’ve missed opportunities to be a Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan had compassion for a man who had been stripped, beaten and left for dead by robbers. He wasn’t approached by a man with a suspect story.

I do, however, wonder about the real stories behind the suspect stories whenever I'm approached. Don’t you?


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