February 2014 e-mail:

    I was telling you about my charitable exploits earlier, both because they sometimes were good stories and also because I felt awkward and uncomfortable talking about them and wanted to overcome my discomfort, much the same reason I performed the acts themselves. This morning I had an unusual encounter, after which I wondered if I had paid the price of a movie ticket and popcorn and soda for a very good performance.

    There was an unusual group of three people standing by the entrance to the metro near my preferred lock-up spot. I noticed the kid first, a toddler of three or four all bundled up standing near two adults. As I performed my U-Lock ceremony, I listened to the guy talking on a cell phone. He was talking to "Ma" in an insistent and somewhat pleading tone, asking her to go to his room and get the ten dollars he left on the window sill and bring it to the station. From his voice I surmised that he was a black man. I paused to blow my nose by the bike rack rather than going in to the trash can as usual to justify lingering a bit longer. The kid wandered a bit and the other adult, a white woman, walked after him. I walked past them to the trash can, still in range of the phone call, which seemed to be to a different person now. I thought maybe he was leaving a voicemail this time, still asking someone to bring something to the metro. I decided to intervene, but hadn't made a move yet. The woman was walking back to the man with the kid, she didn't look stressed but perhaps weary. Did she glance at me? She called to him, "C.J." and was saying something to him as I approached. I interrupted, saying "Do you guys need to borrow some cash?"

    C.J. and I sort of talked over each other, me mumbling something about the kid and him saying something appreciative, then me saying something nonsensical about how he could pay me back, but intending to say that he could pay me back by helping someone else out some other time. Anyway, the bill was passed and I turned to escape as rapidly as possible. I don't remember looking back, but I feel like I sensed that they entered the station behind me. I walked to the end of the platform to try and avoid seeing them if they came up, perhaps thinking that I was helping them more by not reminding them of having benefited from the kindness of a stranger. I also started wishing I had at least looked to see if they fed the bill into the fare machine. Seeing the bill go in would have given me 95% confidence. I was still at 80% confidence, but this level has decayed with time.


NPR has been having a series in the mornings where they look into stories of elderly being targeted by financial scams. Even with no signs of dementia, people get more susceptible to these scams as they age and lose their ability to discern trustworthiness.

Not related, but my SO and I were walking by the bust stop one day and a guy came up and said he needed some particular small amount to make the bus. My immediate suspicion was that the story was bunk, but my SO had already given him the few bucks he supposedly needed for the trip. We weren’t even out of earshot before he was asking someone else for the change he just received.

posted 199 days ago