It was an overcast drizzly New Years morning. I was working with Rachel, Sara, and Astrid when we parked on Cathedral Place with plans to walk to a coffee shop.*
We didn't make it to said coffee shop though. We were walking near a fountain - umbrellas in hand, when a full-figured petite woman urgently stopped us:
"Oh Lord Jesus, please help me!" She announced that she wasn't trying to rob anyone and showed us her state issued ID. Her family was supposed to pick her up at Walmart, but never showed up. Walmart was about a ten minute drive south, pending downtown traffic. She was hungry and hadn't eaten breakfast though it was about 10:30. The mystery woman asked for a ride to a store on West King Street and said she needed $5 for a cab to the Shores neighborhood. I asked the girls how they felt about us giving her a ride and they were cool. We walked back to my car and our new friend (whose name I forgot) sat up front with me.
I didn't have cash on me, so I pulled into Carmello's to use the ATM and buy a little breakfast for our friend. On the short drive there, she lamented on the events of the prior night (New Years Eve).
"The Devil had his day! Oh Lawd, it was awful - people in the club getting drunk, oh Lawd Jesus!" She went on like this the whole time we were together. By the time I came back from Carmello's, she had started crying. As we continued driving, I told our friend about the Sunshine Bus and how it only costs $1 per route...
"Oh no baby, I need a taxi!," she insisted. A few minutes later, we reached her requested destination. Astrid left the backseat and stood by the front passenger seat to kind of keep an eye on things.
"Here you go." I handed our friend a white plastic bag.
"What's this?" She asked.
"Some fruit, trail mix and some money." I replied.
"How much money?" Asked our new friend.
"$5 like you asked for." I recalled what she told us near the fountain earlier.
"Oh, I need ten baby!" ...
"Okay. Give me the five back and I'll give you ten," I said. Even though she was riding my in car, I knew at this moment that I was the one being taken for a ride, along with my friends. About this time, our new friend realized her ID was missing. Meanwhile, Astrid was still standing tall and keeping watch nearby.
"I can't find my ID!" Our friend frantically started searching among her things. As she leaned over to look on the floor of my car, her left shirt pocket opened, revealing a $20 bill - easily visible from Astrid's vantage point.
"Did you look behind the $20 bill in your pocket?" Astrid asked.
"Oh, I don't know baby, I just need to find my ID."
I give the impression that if asked, I will provide food and/or money. I'm okay with being an easy target. Occasionally, these ones are genuinely in need and don't have ulterior motives. I've had several run-ins with pan handlers (I wrote about this recently via the above button). So, if in the process of helping a few in need I get swindled...so be it.
I'd rather be naive.
*Names have been changed.