There was a car parked on both sides, and the one on the driver's side also had a woman in it, who was busy working/writing/ possibly drinking Tequila.
Pretty soon a woman came up to both of us, asking for help. She'd been loudly talking to another woman in the parking lot by the bank before approaching us. She was chatty, volunteering lots of personal information about why she needed help--her car was towed by the police, but they wouldn't give her a ride to the next city but suggested a bus, which was next to Starbucks, but she didn't have bus fare, which was odd because her ex-husband, an Arizona sheriff, would give stranded people vouchers and she needed to pick her kids up in Salt Lake City....blah, blah, while simultaneously talking to said kids on her cell (master multi-tasker!).
When she said she only had four dollars to her name, the woman next to me put down her work/notes/Tequila and said, "And the money the lady from the bank gave you." Stranded Lady repeated she had only four dollars. Working Lady said, "Sorry, can't help you." Stranded Lady then looks at me, and I say, "I have no cash, but I can drive you to the Trax station" (the Trax is a two-line rail system that runs through Salt Lake City).
Not sure why I blurted this out, because the Trax was a 25 minute drive, one way, and I don't normally give strangers rides. But I felt sorry for her plight, and at the very least, for her wacky tale of woe which suggested she might be incapable of riding a bus to the Trax station. Taken aback, she said, "Umm, okay, but give me a minute. I have to go inside. I have to go to the bathroom." Well, after four kids and three kidney stones, that sounded perfectly reasonable to me.
While she was inside tending to business, Tequila lady and I looked at each other, and I shrugged. She said, "It's hard when you really want to help people." I agreed. Then she said, "She's lying, you know." I said, "What?" She said, "The lady at the bank gave her twenty dollars. So she has money. I don't know if she's working this corner or not (occasionally the down-and-out do) but she's lying."
Now, I didn't know if she was lying or not, but if she was, I didn't like it. Plus it was messing up my possible good deed for the class I was taking (hey, I actually look for these opportunities even when I'm not prompted by assignment). So I said, "Well, if that's true, I feel like leaving
And as I was
I tell her, "I don't understand why you lied to me, but it makes me uncomfortable." She says, surprised, "I lied?" Pointing at Tequila Lady, I said, "That Lady said the bank lady gave you twenty dollars but you said you only had four." She said, "Twenty-dollars? How would she know that?" And since she wasn't exactly denying it, I kept backing out. She said, in parting, "Okay, you go on ahead and leave if you have to" and went back to talking with her
Driving away, I couldn't decide if I just heartlessly dashed the hopes of a person in need out of fear and paranoia, or if I had just escaped a possibly dangerous situation that might have left my children motherless/penniless or well, something less.
Later that evening the kids and I were watching an episode of The Mentalist featuring a suspiciously identical scenario where a Carney 'con' was scamming a 'mark', only it was a little old lady in distress and the 'mark' was a
Either way, I hugged my kids a little tighter that night, and hoped that lady got to home to hug hers too. Unless she lied about that too...