Good Samaritan, or Idiot?

I’ll tell you this story before I tell you the other one.

A while back someone on my Facebook feed posted a link to one of those “What Would You Do?” videos. It was a show that staged moral dilemmas for people and filmed them with hidden cameras. I meant to click on the link, but the feed got away from me. And yet I’d been thinking about it for a while. The dilemma presented was for a woman (actress) using food stamps – probably an EBT card these days – to buy groceries and falling short. I didn’t see the video, but I imagine that she was agonizing loudly enough for bystanders to hear. Another actress was there to complain about poor people. And then it showed how different people reacted. I still haven’t seen that video, so I don’t know its findings. It’s only the situation that I find intriguing, not the outcome.

Not too long ago I somehow got into a conversation with a coworker about that video. I told her that I tend to thoroughly tune out the world when I’m in public. (That’s an introvert trick, folks.) I’ve probably been in line many times behind people using food stamps/EBT at the market, and didn’t know it. And if they’d had trouble paying for their groceries, they weren’t loud enough about it to get my attention. And yes, it turns out that there are people who scrutinize the content of other people’s shopping carts and see how it’s being paid for. I only pay attention to whether I can start putting my stuff on the conveyor belt. I don’t care what you have on it or how you pay for it.

Back to my conversation. My coworker and I agreed that we’d like to believe that we would step up and help someone in that same situation. I don’t know how far she’d go, but depending on the situation, I believed that I may go as far as buying the person’s groceries outright. Couple of reasons: Because I CAN.

Another reason is that the person would’ve been holding up my line. I hate that. The faster their bill is paid, the sooner I get my own Stuff home.


Okay, to my point.

I had lunch last Sunday with Mom and Auntie last Sunday a bit away from where I live. On a whim I decided to shop at the Ralph’s up the street rather than go home and use the one close to me. Besides, this Ralph’s is bigger.

I didn’t have a LOT of stuff in my cart. I was in the juice aisle, and then heard someone speaking to me. It was a young Mexican woman, holding two very large packs of diapers and formula. Her toddler son was lingering nearby. Basically, she was asking for money to buy that stuff due to a lost job and her baby needing diapers. I said, “I only have a dollar,” which was true. I gave her the dollar, but she lingered and kept lamenting having no diapers for “the baby.” I glanced at her hand, which had my dollar, and one other, and that was it.

Good Samaritan, or Idiot?

Acknowledged: There are many, many people all over the world that grift for a living. And in southern California, a very large portion of people hate Mexicans. It’s why I called out that the woman was Mexican. Let me rephrase that: a very large portion of people here think the worst of Mexicans. Coming here illegally, stealing jobs, making billions of babies per person, and/or not even trying to work and just living off welfare. My mother is one of those people. I won’t tell her this story because of it.

I made my decision with both eyes open, and because of how the world is, can’t feel bad or good about it.

I said to her, “I’ll just buy those for you.” We walked to an express lane. I wasn’t done with my own shopping, so I put my cart aside. She put her stuff on and kept saying “God bless you” to me. She also asked if I have children. “No.” More “bless you’s.”

The total bill was… rather more than I expected. But the deed was done. I kept my receipt and gave her the string of coupons that came with the purchase. They were very likely for baby stuff. I said, “Take care,” and left quickly.

Now… there’s a very good chance that I was scammed. I accept that. I’m not omniscient, so I can’t say that I wasn’t, either. But if the woman had just been there to collect money, only to put the baby stuff back on the shelf and leave after collecting enough, well… she got stuck with a buttload of baby stuff instead. Oh, and my dollar. I never did get that back. 😦

Here’s that video, if you’re interested.


About herdthinner

Writer and artist who pays the bills with another job
This entry was posted in Navel-Gazing, True-Life Adventure and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Good Samaritan, or Idiot?

  1. I should have thought of that when I was in SoCal. Instead I made diapers out of tshirts. Fitted disposable diapers work a lot better than that!

    • herdthinner says:

      Do you mean bought disposables or asked for money? Of course disposables have the big disadvantage of being landfill fodder, and the kind that never disintegrates. Happy Earth Day! 😦

      And thanks for responding!

  2. NotAPunkRocker says:

    You do what you have to in the moment with what you have. Even if you were scammed, you did this with the best of intentions. I don’ tknow what I would have done if the diaper bill had been larger than I thought.

    Let’s think of it this way: if they sell the diapers for money for whatever, that is still someone getting diapers. And if they are buying them from a potential scammer, chances are they need more than just that and so every bit helps.

    I rarely carry cash, but I have been known to go back into the 7-11 to buy someone a water or such. That’s only if they aren’t aggressively trying to get cash; all times my offer has been accepted and the person has been grateful.

    • herdthinner says:

      She was displaying lots of gratitude throughout, so there’s that. The fact that this all happened rather shortly after I’d said out loud (to the coworker) what I’d do in this kind of situation… Well, I couldn’t make a liar of myself. She had good timing, then. I’m going to go with what you said and assume that, scammed or not, somehow those diapers would be put to use. And then dumped forever into a landfill, whooooooo!

  3. I’m with you HT with the mind my own business at tils and help if I can. If I get scammed by a lone wolf how will that be different from a ton of corporations that do it to me on a daily basis? Don’t get me started on the legal scam known as car insurance.
    So comme ci comme ca you decide in the moment whether to help and then just get on with the rest of your day.

    • herdthinner says:

      Dental insurance gets me steamed. Also, getting jury duty summons, but that’s only because I’m dealing with that at the moment.

      I realize that I have gender bias. I’m much more likely to help women in need than men. If I happen to be shopping at the time and not just trying to get through a green light (many station themselves at intersections), I’m more inclined to add something for them in my cart.

      I’m not a fan of children by any stretch, but the “bring kids with you” bit works on me, too. It’s tough to tell if they’re there for sympathy or because they genuinely have no safe place to go.

      • Interesting, hadn’t thought of that. I’ve put many a penny into a male cup, again I just went with the moment. if a mother was also standing there with a child he wouldn’t get anything if I had to choose.

Make a Curmudgeon smile and write sumthin'?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s