Three Dollars Poorer

Black guy, well dressed in slacks, polo, and necktie, comes running down Inner Harbor, asking passersby where the nearest Rite Aid or CVS Pharmacy is. As he reaches me, I tell him that there’s a CVS at Lombard and Light.

Closed, he replies.

Rite Aid on Broadway Street at Fells Point, then, I tell him, but he says it’s too far, and this is an emergency. He’s had a flat tire, needs a tire jack for his car, where his kids are waiting. He says a passing policeman took him to a gas station, but he had forgotten his wallet at home, and the gas station would not take a personal check from him for the amount needed — $5.88. He has $2, can I spare $3.88?

I don’t have the change for 88 cents, but I do have exactly $3 of loose bills in my pocket. I give them to him, frowning. This isn’t some sort of modus operandi, is it?

Spreads his arms, palms out, to show that he is decently dressed. Aw c’mon, look at me, he says, I’ve just had a bad day. Thanks, man, I’ll get the 88 cents somewhere. Look, he says, I work at <forgot the address> if you drop by, I’ll give you back three dollars. Thanks.

He walks off. I only then realize that he isn’t sweating or breathing heavily from his exertions. Well, it is a cold day. But… why would he leave his kids in a car with a flat tire? In Downtown Baltimore, of all places?

I walk towards home, in the opposite direction. If it’s a scam, I mutter to myself, I fell for it: hook, line, and sinker. Oh well, three dollars poorer, an experience richer.

Story of my life.

An hour earlier, I gave a quarter to a beggar asking for change among the tables at Harborplace Food Plaza, then sternly told him off when he asked for more. Minutes later, a couple at another table gave him an extra plate full of onion rings, for which he thanked them. And thanked them, and thanked them, and thanked them.

Perhaps God was telling me something.


  1. daniel says:

    Hi Pao. Sounds like a scam to me. My personal experience doesn’t deviate much from yours. This guy told me his whole family was waiting in the car a few blocks away (I think he even said his wife was pregnant).

    Anyway, since we can’t fully judge people’s motives, whenever someone asks me for money, I throw in a gospel tract along with the change I hand out. =)

  2. I can’t say I have ever gone to the Inner Harbor when I wasn’t approached by a beggar in need, and sometimes I give, and sometimes I don’t, it depends how I feel that day.

  3. Noelle says:

    From the way you wrote it, dude, I think you were scammed. And one lesson I (re)learned from reading that was don’t judge a book by its cover. The beggar seems pretty sincere compared to that guy.