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Oct 13

Written by: Greg Runyon
10/13/2009 12:18 PM 

I was panhandled the other day.  Well, panhandled may not be quite the right word for it.  It was an odd experience.  I was driving to the grocery store.  Just outside the store’s driveway, a car was coming the other way.  The occupants were waving at me.


Thinking my car was somehow unbeknownst to me on fire or some such thing, I rolled down my window.  The woman in the car told me that she and the driver, a guy who I don’t recall ever speaking, were about out of gas, and needed to get to Iowa City.  She asked if she could have five bucks.


Here I am, in traffic, taking all this in.  I indicate to her to pull into the store’s lot.  I pull up next to them, dig out the smallest bill I have (a ten—oh, yeah, just call me Mr. Moneybags) and hand it out the window to her.  She’s meanwhile telling me that her father or some such person had a stroke or some such malady, and they needed to get to the UIHC to visit him.  I wished them luck and pulled away.


This was a first for me, and such a strange experience.  I’m not sure how exactly they picked me, or why.  I’m not sure there is really anybody in the hospital, or that they were really running out of gas.  The car they were driving seemed pretty nice, so I’m unsure of the level of destitution they might be experiencing; could be vast, could be nonexistent.


I suppose, in the end, none of that really matters, though.  It’s hard to feel too bad about it, even if they were just scamming me.  I’m sure they need that ten bucks more than I do, one way or another.  I don’t expect I’ll ever be in a place where I’d be pining for that tenner to be back in my wallet. 


It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been asked for money.  In fact, at that very grocery store, I was not long ago asked for a quarter by someone who was a bit short for their purchase.  I gave him a dollar because I didn’t have any change (seems like I keep up-selling myself on requests for money.  I need to have more variety in my cash-carrying I guess.)  My hope is that both of these people get more financially secure, and that one day they will pass a few bucks on to someone else who needs it.



4 comment(s) so far...

Re: A Drive-by

Where and when do you grocery shop? I'm running a bit short of milk, bread, filet mignon, etc... and I want to be sure to go on the night you'll be there so I can forget my cash, checkbook, debit and credit cards like everyone else does who shops there (except you!) Actually it's a very nice blog Greg, I've done a few similar acts of kindness and also hope the person I've helped out "pays it forward."

By Loretta on   10/14/2009 8:15 AM

Re: A Drive-by

You are a very compasionate person Greg! Now, what store do you shop at, and what color and make of car do you drive???

By Sue (Jills' mom) on   10/14/2009 8:15 AM

Re: A Drive-by

Well, I hate to break it to you nice Iowans but here, we call it enabling addicts. It started out to be occasional, but now you can barely go anywhere without having several people begging. There are two main stories. One is a family emergency and a shortage of cash for gas. Sometimes they will offer to take your address and mail the money back! Once in awhile they will give you a (stolen) check made out to you for the amount you give them, or even a little extra. But that takes time and they must get you to leave so they can get the next person! The other gambit is a female approaching guys to say she is trying to buy a bus ticket to leave an abusive boyfriend. She will hop in the car for a "ride to an ATM" or ... Guess what happens next. Last year was the "my kids are hungry" story or the "I need money for insulin." What a shame. These people are professionals and are very good at their job! And highly motivated! A bag of heroin and a crack rock each cost $10. The beggars will move from place to place, but you may find yourself seeing repeaters. Sometimes there is a shift change that you can observe! It's almost funny when you remind them that they asked you a few hours or days ago in a different place. If it's public and safe, I will converse with them until they get irritated and leave. Otherwise, best to say NO and get away! Let me know if this is a pattern in Iowa as well as other states!

By Out of state. Sadder but wiser. on   11/10/2009 9:17 AM

Re: A Drive-by

I remembered reading this and had to return to say in Florida, every city intersection has at least 4 and sometimes more, beggars! Most have cardboard signs that say what they want, i.e. "bus ticket needed." We observed a few turf conflicts/ races to cars stopped at red lights/shouting across the street to/at each other. Very strange. But, we did not see any beggars at stores and parking lots. I mean, other than the Salvation Army and similar people. Do you know they get paid to do the bell ringing? Which is corporate begging, I guess.

By Me again on   12/16/2009 8:23 AM

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