Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Carneys, Good Deeds, and Cackle-Bladders

All this winter snow is getting tedious, so recently I parked at our local Starbucks with my eyes closed to soak up some sun. I was also supposed to be sitting silently in a public place (for a class I was taking) listening, so my windows were rolled down, in the spirit of being more public.

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 not giving some wack-a-doo possible stalker a ride where she might steal my car/purse/knock me over the head with her cell phone." Tequila Lady concurred; "I would."

And as I was cowardly backing  up, here comes Stranded Lady, still on her cell, running up to my window.

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 partner in crime kids on the phone.

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 naive kind-hearted woman (the Mentalist's co-worker) sitting in an outdoor cafe. Not surprisingly the Mentalist showed up and saved the soon-to-be-scammed woman, kinda like that Tequila Lady saved me (I hope).

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...


  1. NEVER, and I repeat NEVER, give a ride to a stranger, no matter how desperate or innocent they seem! Offer to call somebody, offer advice or options, give her a few bucks, BUT DO NOT EVER LET ANYONE IN YOUR CAR. If your daughter told you this story, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE TOLD HER TO DO??? I think you know the answer to that ...

  2. I know, right? If my daughter told me that I would have fainted. To be fair, this woman looked just as surprised that I asked as I was that I asked. She never even asked me for a ride, all she wanted was $$, I'm the one that offered to drive her. She seemed innocent enough. But thank you :)

  3. LOrna I feel that you escaped a possible dangerous situatuion. We can never bee too sure when inviting strangers into our space.
    I would have given her a couple of dollars and be done w/ her.
    Now it's about the one with her car...what happens when she gets driving..drinking in a car....a no no.
    You were surrounded by a few loonies I think..
    Love your profile image!! Nice to put a face to your name Lorna!!! waving from sunny AZ ! xo

  4. Anna, I'm joking about the Tequila, my humor has officially flopped, lol. We were outside Starbucks, so she was probably enjoying a latte. Had I had a few dollars I would have happily given it to the stranded lady, for sure. Thanks for waving at me from sunny, snowless AZ!!! (lucky you!)

  5. I hate that we live in a world where it's so hard to do a kind thing without the complications of safety. This is a great story with so many possible endings. I sort of wonder what would have happened if you'd taken her to the station - like a miracle or something. It didn't seem like you had alarms going off.

    I got the tequila joke, BTW. :-)

  6. I agree, Deb. I wondered what would have happened too, if she had been given that ride to the station. Was hoping for miracles too. And yet, have watched too many Criminal Mind episodes! Still not sure how I feel about the whole thing. Sigh. Glad you got my humor, lol.

  7. I agree you may have possibly escaped a dangerous situation. My personal take on the situation was that Tequila Lady was absolutely correct and Stranded lady was so taken aback at your offer that she had to escape to the 'bathroom' to talk this over with her partner in crime. And I think he/she just may have said something like, "sure, let her bring you here and I'll meet you and we'll take her car/dump her body, etc." You get the idea.
    There was once a time when we stopped at a particular fast food place every Sunday morning in the summer for a quick bite, and two Sundays in a row were greeted by a guy whose car had broken down 'right there.' He actually pointed out his car. All he needed was $5 to get some gas. The third time we saw him, he recognized us and turned the other way.
    We have given a ride to only two people I can remember - both women, and that's when we were both in the car. One turned out to be an absolute nut case - had no idea where she was going, kept us going around in circles, until we finally saw a police car and 'dropped her off' with them. The other was a lady only a mile from our house. We pulled up behind a car at the corner as she was exiting the passenger side, then waited while she leaned in and spoke at length to the driver. When he finally pulled off and we pulled up, she came to my window and begged for a ride - she just needed to get home really quick, her dog (with her) was diabetic and needed his medicine NOW, and her house was a good mile away. Half way there, she remembered that his medicine was not at HER house, but at her mother's house, in the opposite direction, and could we please stop at the grocery store so she could get some milk coz her baby needed milk. Once we got to the store, guess what? Oops, she had forgotten her money, could we loan her $5? Fred told her adamantly no, she and the dog could get out here, or he'd take her to her house. She whined and cried, and when she began making threats, Fred started the car and drove her straight to her mother's house, where the door was open, but as soon as the lady inside saw her getting out of our car, she closed the door. Lady in our car banged on the door, banged on the window, hollering all the time that se needed HER medicine, that she was sick, that she would die without her 'stuff'. Fred looked at me, then opened the back door and let the little dog out and we drove away.
    I've often wondered about the fate of the little dog, but the woman was obviously a con artist and a drug addict, and it was just too dangerous to deal with.

  8. Wow Ethel Mae, those are both sobering stories. What I take away from all this is, is that "it's a crazy, mixed up world we live in", to quote a line from the movie my kids used to watch, The Mummy. And like Tequila Lady, the unsung hero in this story said, "It's hard when you really want to help people". Bingo. Perhaps I should change the title of this piece....thanks, Ethel Mae

  9. I'm a tad behind in my reading, ahem. Made for a great story, anyway. I never would have been so brave to have offered a ride. And I probably would have pulled away much sooner.

    Hope all is well. I'm trying to catch up and get the blogger juices flowing once again. I think I missed what you are going to school for. Midlife jobhunter - still at it? Would love an update.

  10. Good Lord, I thought I'd replied to your comment! I'm a slacker! (blame it on menopausal brain fog...or something). I'm behind too (as you can clearly tell by now ;). Glad I'm not the only one though, that hasn't felt the blogger juices. All is well. Not going to school, per se, but taking classes here and there. This particular one was about destressing, LOL. Definitely job hunting, still....Best to you Julie!