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.