The Bum at Lowes

January 05, 2005

I went to Lowes tonight to pick up a couple of one by fours and some medium sized wood screws. I was hopping into my Jeep when the parking lot beggar hurried up and made his pitch.

I've been begged by this guy before. He's usually after fifty cents or a couple of bucks. Fairly friendly. I wonder why I can remember people who beg from me three times in a year, but I can't remember to take out the garbage on Thursdays. Tonight, he wanted a ride to Tom drive. It was real close, so what the heck.


He started his hard luck story: mother just died, car broke down, no one he can call, etc., etc. He needed nine dollars to get a part for his car. I noticed that he didn't smell like a beggar. I actually detected a faint scent of soap. Both the inside of my Jeep and I smelled worse. Weird.

He dropped an ugly racial slur. What reaction do people expect from a stranger when they do something like that? I kept quiet, figuring that the absence of any reaction at all was probably the best way to proceed.

He asked for a couple of bucks. I told him that I didn't have any money. I had paid for my lumber with a credit card. This was the truth.

He swore that he's an upstanding citizen and that if I would drive through the ATM and get out $10, he would find me and pay it back.

Before we get to my response, imagine how I explain that to Mrs. theskinnyonbenny: "Sweetie, I know you put us on a budget, but I just got out ten bucks to give to a professional beggar. I knew you would understand." I'm not sure what the reaction would be, but it would be very, very ugly.

So I lied: "The ATM won't give me any money. You know how it is with Christmas and all." Or maybe that part wasn't a lie. How the heck would I know? I have no insight on our finances.

I did let him have the change in my ashtray. Roughly 80 cents, I think.

We went a couple of miles, staying on busy streets. I started to get nervous. The hard luck stories continued. I acted like I was searching for something under the seat, just to make him think. We sat at a red light silently.

He had me drop him off at a motel a quarter mile from my office, but no longer on Tom Drive. It's tough to keep your hard luck stories straight sometimes, I guess. I had never noticed this motel, even though it had a bright neon sign at night. It wasn't fit for human occupancy. Home sweet home.

"Good luck buddy."

"I need it," he replied.

Amen to that.