So I stopped at the gas station today. I parked in front of the pump and headed in to pay.
I stood in line and waited my turn. As I stood there, I watched some guy turn in a scratch-off lottery ticket, apparently having just won a free ticket. He turned it in, and the lady behind the counter asked, “another of the same?” and he confirmed.
So I do my business and leave. I get in my car, start it up, throw it in reverse, and start slowly backing away from the pumps.
This guy from inside the store comes up to my window, and I know what’s about to happen. He’s about to ask me for money. And sure enough, the pitch starts. “Excuse me sir, I’m homeless. Do you have a dollar?”
Well, I didn’t have a dollar. I never, ever carry cash. You want to mug me, fine. Have my credit/debit card. I’m on the hook for $50 maximum, and I guarantee it will be canceled before you get an opportunity to use it.
But beyond that, the bigger pictures is that this guy had just spent money on a lottery ticket. That means he had money to buy a lottery ticket. That means that he, as a supposed homeless person, chose to purchase a scratch-off lottery ticket instead of putting the money towards housing or, likely just as much in need, food.
I told him I don’t carry cash, and continued backing away.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I look in my rear view mirror. What do I see?
That same guy– the homeless guy, the guy with no money, the guy who had been gambling– got into a work van, fired it up, and began backing away.
And that is why I never give money to beggars and homeless people. Every time I have done so, I have been ripped off. There are two separate instances I recall that have caused me to stop giving money to beggars.
The first time, a friend and I were leaving a bookstore. A guy came up and said he was a couple dollars short for a bus ticket. The bus station was across the street. We, high school students at the time, scrape together the remains of our leftover lunch money, minimum-wages, and spare change, and give this guy a few bucks total. He crosses the street headed towards the bus station. He approached the door. He took a left. He approached the next door. He went in. He came out with a bottle in a bag. It was a liquor store.
The next time, I was getting on a highway just outside of Chicago on my way home from work. As I waited at a red light, I looked to my left and saw a guy sitting on the side of the road with a “WILL WORK FOR FOOD” sign. I had brought a lunch that day, but felt like having something hot so I had a perfectly intact brown bag lunch. Sandwich, chips, soda, etc. A full lunch. I roll down my window and hold out the bag. “Hey man, I didn’t eat my lunch today. Would you like it?” The response, “NO.” I say, “But your sign says ‘WILL WORK FOR FOOD’ and I’m trying to give you food. You don’t even have to do any work.” He says, “I don’t want it.” My light turns green, and I pull away. Obviously, he didn’t want food, and his desire to work was also highly suspect. My bet? “WILL WORK FOR FOOD” is beggar-eeze for “GOT ANY CHANGE?”
OK, last story. My favorite of the bunch. It doesn’t have to do with someone directly asking me for money or food or anything like that, but it is still hilarious. I was headed to the highway here in Savannah. I get stuck at a red light in front of a gas station. I look over and I see a homeless guy sitting next to the ice machine with the standard “WILL WORK FOR FOOD” sign. I tilt my vision upward to one of the signs in the window of the gas station, right above the homeless guy’s head. The sign reads “HELP WANTED.” I laughed my head off.
That is all.