Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It Could Happen to Me

So the other day, one of my favorite chick flicks – “It Could Happen to You” was on TV.

If you don’t know the plot, it’s a totally implausible story about a NYC cop (Nicholas Cage) who feels so badly about not having enough money to tip his coffee shop waitress (Bridget Fonda), he makes her a silly promise.

He shows her a lottery ticket and swears that if he wins, he’ll come back and split the jackpot with her.

She laughs, then continues on with her broke, unhappy life, until the miracle happens. The cop does win the lottery and they do split the jackpot and they fall in love. Add a few dramatic complications from the cop’s wife for Hollywood effect, and you get a whole movie about how money isn’t everything and how important it is in this world to be kind to strangers.

My friends tease me, say the movie is hokey and that the cop was crazy to fork over that cash, and that in the real world people would never do that.

They’re probably right, but I love the movie anyway.

So the other day, I finished watching “It Could Happen to You” for the umpteenth time (although it’s been several years since my last viewing), then took my tear-streaked face to the grocery store.

I paid for my groceries, then got back into my car. Just as I started to pull out of my parking space, a man approached my window.

Man: Excuse me, m’am. I’m really, really sorry to bother you. But my girlfriend and I are kind of in trouble, and she said to approach you because you look nice. I’m really, really sorry to bother you.

Me: (nervous, this is downtown Chicago, after all) What’s up?

Man: I can give you my ID, you can hold it, or I can write down my name and address. We’re trying to get somewhere, but there’s something wrong with my car, and I’m short of $7.00 on my balance on my Shell card. (he repeats) I’ll write down my address. You just look nice and I’ve already approached three people and they’ve been really mad, but I can write down my name and address.

Me: I’m not sure what you’re asking for. So you need $7?

Man: Yeah. Please don’t be mad.

Me: (knowing I only have 20s in my wallet because I went to the ATM in the grocery store) Well, I don’t have 7, but I can break a bill. Why don’t you meet me at that ice cream shop over there and I’ll drive over and ask them to break it.

Man: That’s great. Thanks so much.

As I drove over to the ice cream store, it started to occur to me that the guy’s story about the Shell card didn’t really make any sense. And it didn’t really make any sense that he was willing to write his address down for me. What was he purporting I do – send him a bill?

When we got into the store, even the ice cream shop man raised an eyebrow at our story.

Me: Can you please break this $20 for me?

Ice Cream Man: What are you trying to do?

Me: I just met this guy outside and he’s stranded and needs $7, but all I have is this $20.

The Ice Cream man gave me a look that said, “sucka!” but opened the register and broke the bill.

Me: (turning to the man to prove himself) Where is your car and your girlfriend?

Man: They’re right outside in that silver car over there.

(He pointed outside but I saw no silver car and no girlfriend waiting).

I handed over the $7 and the guy thanked me again, and we went our separate ways.

A few hours later at a party, I told some friends about what happened to me.

“You just bought that man’s next bottle of Jack Daniels,” they joked.

Hmph. They’re probably right.

But I’m glad I did it anyway.


Ralph said...

Jack Daniels for $7? I was thinking he wanted to ride the Night Train. I think time spent living in Milwaukee diminishes one's awareness of these kind of scams. I've been approached this way maybe once or twice in WI. Whereas, when I lived in New Orleans, it was more like once a week.

Glad to see you're still blogging!

wfbdoglover said...

I see you have another Milwaukee Fan - maybe we could all become groupies.

Vikki, my stomach was in my throat this whole story!! NEVER do that again please!

A very nice - Sorry I can't help you out today is a very good answer.

Daniel Edelstein said...

Your heart is too big, Vikki -- and don't lose that quality of sharing and caring.

BUT what I do in that situation is give the person something tangible rather than $$$ -- 'cuz I, too, believe the person will use the $$ for "vices."

I've seen the alcohol or cigarettes a person buys with the $$$ given to him/her in response to the $$$ granted, when s/he swore the $$$ were intended for gasoline or XX in some kind of reputed emergency claimed by the unfortunate person.

John said...

1) Poor Casting in that movie.
2) Milwaukee has plenty of areas that would have given you experience with how to deal with your situation.
3) You might feel happy you did that, but what if it happened often?...or even again the next day. I think your attitude would change a lot. You couldn't possibly do it all the time. And, your increased experience and exposure would force you to adjust your position a bit. So you would need a sensible response. And that one is, direct them to someone who can help them. A police officer, store mgr, if it is a homeless person panhandling, give them info of the nearest shelter. Those would have taken less time and had been more effective. If they are sincere, they will patiently go along with that.

I know a pandhandler once who asked a college friend of mine for some $ to get a sandwich. My friend says, as we're walking downt the street, "Come with us he says boldy and energetically w/o hesitation."... and we ducked into a diner and my friend waited in line and bought him a sandwich. The panhandler's appreciative response after eating was, "Can I have the $ now?"

If you don't want to say "Not today" and keep moving, then try the above.

Michael said...

Apparantly "it happened to you" Vikki...I'm hungry for more bloggin where you be...? jk haha

One Savvy Mommy said...

Found your blog, love it. I happen to disagree w/ everyone though re: the homeless people or helping someone out. You don't have to do it everyday, as a matter of fact when you get hit up twice or more in a week, you just tell them, I just gave out my last dollar or two or seven yesterday to someone who needed it. Its the truth and that's what matters. I live in good ole' Indy and work downtown. I run into homeless people ALL THE TIME. I ALWAYS carry ones on me just for that reason. Its not up to me to judge how they spend the dollar or two they ask for. That's between them and the Higher Power. Its not like its $20 or $50, its a dollar or two, or maybe seven. But yes, be happy you did it, b/c you took a step of faith and that's what its all about. The typical "box" answer of not helping them w/ money, but buying them a sandwich makes my stomach turn. They are homeless, but they're no less important than the next person. We are not any better than anyone else. They are still a person who is hurting, has feelings, and a heart and that's what I see when a homeless person comes to me asking for a dollar or two. Have a savvy day.