Depends on Your GPS

I was leaving a busy restaurant tonight with a friend I had not seen in years. As we were saying our good-byes on the sidewalk a voice calls out to us. “Excuse me, can I ask you men a question?”

The voice came from a fairly well dressed woman seated on a bench near the door to the restaurant. She smiles and then stares at me, and says, “you look familiar.” Not able to figure out how that might be… this is Georgia and I am from Oregon… and have rarely performed in the area. She then proceeds to ask our help. She tells us that she has been at the airport all day, her flight canceled and the airline has put her up at the hotel across the street. She says that she embarrassed to admit it but she needs to get $24 to get some Depends. She roles up her pant leg to reveal a tube that is set up to connect to a colostomy bag.

The woman then also shares how she was waiting for a table to get something to eat at the restaurant and that someone man said loud enough for her to hear “what’s that smell?”

“That’s when I came out here to sit.” she says “I have been in these clothes all day and I am not clean, I just need $22 to get some Depends.”

Both my friend and I look at each other…neither of us reach for our wallets… but we are both processing. “Is there a store nearby?” my friend asks. She tells us that the shuttle driver said the closest place was a Krogers. My friend and I then excuse ourselves saying, “well, let’s look and see what is nearby.” This is a busy area and surely there must be a drug store nearby. Not immediately seeing anything, we both walk to the end of the parking lot to see what might be in the neighborhood. As we move out of earshot of the woman I ask my friend “do you believe her?”

My friend says, “I would feel better if she showed us an airline ticket.” I think we both have some doubt but at the same time, how could we be so heartless as to ignore this woman’s need. It has to be humiliating to ask for this kind of help, we are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. We are willing to try to restore some measure of her dignity.

We both simultaneously pull out our cell phones. Both our phones have GPS and so it is dueling cellphone GPS systems, to see who can find the nearest drug store. Bingo! I find one… a CVS about a mile and a half away.

As we are zeroing in on the location the lady comes over to us… “the shuttle driver says he would take me to Krogers.” I explain that we are looking for a drugstore nearby, “Our phones have GPS–and I found a CVS nearby.”

She says “oh they won’t be open.”

My friend says, “Yes, they are open 24 hours.” then he asks,”Do you have an airline ticket I could see?”

“It’s in the hotel room, but I have a room key” and shes shows us an electronic key.
Then she asks “do you have a car?”

“Yes” my friend says.

“Oh, just forget it” she says and walks away, down the street, away from us, away from the restaurant… away from the hotel.

There were other clues that I missed until reflecting further. If she had no money, how was she planning to eat in this restaurant that would probably cost her at least $15 for a modest meal. She was quick to show us the tubing for the colostomy bag… but there was no bag… only the tubing…meaning that the liquid would have just… well, you know. And the price of Depends dropped from $24 to $22 in a matter of seconds…

We were not heartless, both my friend and I were determined to help her. We were going to go to the store and buy that lady some Depends. She was convincing… she was not the “typical” street beggar. And of all the stories I have heard from the typical street beggars, this was certainly a new one!

Modern technology. A GPS became a truth detector.

Chuck Neighbors

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