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.