My wife and I were recently driving back from a quick trip to Arizona, where we visited Saguaro National Park and watched our Packers get destroyed by the Cardinals. Wanting to gas up one last time before we crossed back into California (where gas is close to $1 per gallon more), we pulled off at an exit that had a single gas station and nothing else.
Parked at the bottom of the exit was an old beater car and a woman (maybe mid-40s), wearing a jacket that was too light for the 40-degree and windy weather. She held up a simple sign that read “GAS” and had a gas can at her feet.
On our way back to the on-ramp, I rolled down my window and gave the woman $20. I was on the phone with a friend and shared with him what I was doing. He proceeded to give me all of the cautionary tales about people “begging” for money at gas stations — they really want the money for drugs, they have a Mercedes around the corner, they’re forced to do it in some sort of pimp-like relationship, and so forth.
I suppose any of these could be true, and I acknowledged that to my friend and even pointed out that, as worn as the sign was, perhaps she’s there frequently taking advantage of soft-hearted travelers.
My friend then asked why I would I give her $20, knowing that there’s a pretty good chance it’s a scam and that she’s not a traveler who needs a few bucks in gas to get out of the cold and closer to home. Why would I support someone who is probably not as she presents herself or, at least, leads us to believe?
My answer was simple: “Because, what if she is?”