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A Rest Area Story

I pulled off the interstate into a rest area. It was chilly and the rain was coming on strong. It was also 2:30 in the morning. I figured it was time for a nap. But first I had to answer the call of nature.

On the way back to the car, I see a guy waving and calling at me. I turned and he saw that I saw him. Too late, I acknowledged him, I thought. The unspoken and universal rules of human interaction dictate that I hear him out. Even though I knew what this is about. I knew he was going to ask me for money.

When he reached polite stranger conversation distance, about three feet from me, I looked him over. He was obviously not homeless. He had a cigarette in his right hand, and a bag of food in his left. I thought I saw baby food in the bag. Ok, so this is gonna be one of those 'I just ran out of gas stories.' I prepare my rejection face.

He is talking fast. The words are coming at me faster than I can absorb them. By the time my brain catches up, his face is full of hurt. I catch a sentence here and there:
"Cruel, heartless people around here....Get a job, he tells me. Well, I had a job, but then I lost it....Right now I am just trying to get home..... So I've been coming back here every hour, but I ain't seen anyone........My two year old daughter.....Gotta here some food into her."

"Slow down. Where is your car?" I ask him.

"It's about 1 mile near that bridge over there. My wife and kids are in the car."

"So you need money for gas? Where are you going to get gas?"

"Look, see that light over there? That's a convenience store and the guy told me he would sell me a five gallon can with gas, but he can't leave the store to help me."

This guy is good, I think. He has obviously done this before. I've heard this story before. It's an old scam. If you cared to make a study of it, I bet he would be back here next week, again out of gas, with a bag of baby food for his 2 year old daughter. He might even have a 2 year old daughter. But he is out here in the rain. That's dedication. And he sure is convincing. I look at his face again.

Man, that face is full of hurt and desperation. It's full of cynicism for the heartless human race. It's full of weariness. It's full of hope. Either that, or he is a great actor, and it's full of shit. What do I do here? I just know he is scamming me. See, I've run out of gas before. A cop came along and put a gallon of gas in the tank for me, so I could get home. It was one of the few times in my life that a cop has helped me out. But I've also run out of gas with no one around, and had to walk for miles to get help. But that was before cell phones. Does this guy not have a cell phone?

So I know he is scamming me, but I am not sure. Do I take that chance? It's late and I am tired. Do I blow him off, like I would do to one of his lesser-skilled brethen, or do I help him? Do I want to take the chance that he is for real and that I turned away another human being in need?

I gave him four dollars. I just didn't want to take the chance that he was for real. I bought piece of mind for four dollars. I didn't want to sit in my car and wonder, what if he was for real? Of course, if I KNEW he really needed help, I would have given him more. It wasn't about the four dollars. Screw the money. I just hate feeling like I was scammed.

"Here, I hope this helps you out," I said as I handed him the money. He thanked me and walked off.

That'w what I told him. Here is what I wish I had told him:

"Here, take this. I don't know if your story is true, because I have heard this game before. Many times. But I choose to believe you. Not because I am a sucker, but because I don't want to take the chance that I didn't help out another human being. I think people naturally want to help others out. But there are parasites out there that prey on this tendency and take advantage of the natural goodness of people. And that stunts the goodness. When someone is scammed, they turn from their nature. And then people turn away from each other.

I hope that's not you. And I hope that if that is you, that you have a change of heart. I hope you look within and find that place you went to when you were a kid, that made you want to improve the world. In any case, don't wait for your fortunes to change. Open your heart and make something of yourself. Become someone that inspires others. Learn to stand on your own two feet. Find that place inside you that makes you shine. It's there. If you can't feel it, reach deeper. And then bring it out so others can see the glow."

Perhaps next time I will be prepared with such a monologue.

Thanks for reading my Four Dollar Story.

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Dead give away it was a scam:

2 yr. olds don't eat baby food.

So don't feel bad.


why do we assume he would have a cell phone? Wouldn't (shouldn't) that be one of the luxuries in life we would forfeit if we were poverty stricken? Dang, I am sick of cell phones.

Being asked for money has happened to me twice in parking lots - I am female and was a bit unnerved when a guy approached me during the first encounter. He was carrying a gas can - I even told him I was uncomfortable with him approaching me - he understood and kept his distance - I gave him $5 - it was all I had - he walked away from his car, towards the road where the gas stations were.

Second time it was a woman who came to my car while I was in the driver's seat. Her accomplice (though she never acknowledged him) was at the intersection with a money-for-food sign. She rattled out her story which was a total lie evidenced by the license plate location on the car she came out of when she approached me (I will not go into detail). I politely declined to give her any money - she left.

Kinda got to let your gut lead you...

As for cell phones, the county adjacent to mine is floating a cell-phone-driving law (South Carolina). ANY handheld device is subject to a fine. Why can't people just be responsible? I see many opportunities for abuse if this becomes a law. Sorry, I digress...

The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous…God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.
Ron Paul - The Revolution

Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms. Ron Paul

I know that story.

If I can, I do what you did.
There's not really any point in saying more than you said.
I understand your sentiment, but here's a thought that I had:

"...that place you went to when you were a kid, that made you want to improve the world..."

That is a really big assumption.
Not every child has that place. B.A.C.A.-Breaking The Chains Of Abuse

you may be right

So do you think people that come out of an abuse background are screwed? Do you think there is any way for them to overcome that background?

"It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go - maybe even longer. If a reasonably intelligent person learned to play Go, in a few months he could beat all existing computer programs." - Piet Hut

Children of abusers,

Children of abusers, alcoholics and those who are abandoned are often permanently shaped by the experience. The comedian Kevin Pollack is making a movie about comedians and the common thread to so many of them is a traumatic childhood. I understand the same applies to so many actors. Formative childhood events provide the impetus and dissatisfaction that drives creative and performance/goal-oriented people.

This won't be a popular example, but look at Barack Obama. His childhood growing up without a father and his personal negative experiences with the health care system (I think involving a relative) drove him to eventually foist the monstrous ACA (Obamacare) on America. Yes, it's a lousy outcome but the point being that dissatisfaction and drive were both instilled in youth and ate at him until he did this terrible thing.

Another example, Bill Clinton grew up under an abusive alcoholic and he was permanently warped by the experience. He became a philandering pathetic lying dirtbag married to a shrill, calculating she-devil. :)

Why would I think that?

People can overcome many kinds of adversity.
I was just pointing out that not all kids have the "place" that you took for granted.

Phxarcher87's picture


case of the runs i have every had was at the sunset point rest stop. a guy asked me if if was ok over the stall in the middle of the situation.

James Madison

Phxarcher87's picture


case of the runs i have every had was at the sunset point rest stop. a guy asked me if if was ok over the stall in the middle of the situation.

James Madison

Similar story almost cost me my life

December 2000
I Lived in high rise tower Baltimore suburb
It's snowing - It's late at night - I decide to drive somewhere.
At the bus stop in front of my building I see a guy with garbage bags waiting for the bus. I open the window and ask if he needs a lift. I pop the trunk. He fills it with bags of "toys for his kids". Then he asks if can we go around the corner to the senior living tower and get the rest of the bags where his grandma lives.
He packs the trunk with more bags (which were stashed in the bushes because it was getting late for grandma to be up).
Next we're headed into the city and I ask if he wants a bite to eat so we stop at a drive-thru.
He takes me right into one of the most violent, drug, zones in Baltimore City. Now I'm getting nervous.
We pull up to a crack house (nice one) and he calls all these people out to help him unload.
I'm handing bags out as fast as I can now, because I'm scared.
They start asking my new friend who I am. I got the sense they wanted to relocate the cash from my pockets to theirs.
Now the hair on the back of my neck is standing up.
I jump in the car - trunk open - and just speed away as fast as I can yelling "Merry Christmas!".
Turns out - all the "gifts" from grandma came from the Towson Town Center, next to my apartment building.

I had a similar thing happen

These guys came to my carwash and said they needed help with their car down the road, I walked back to see what was going on and there was a nice camaro sitting there idling and they said it wouldn't go into gear, so I got in and put it right in gear and said, "there you go". The guy got in and said it wouldn't move for him and he was just going to get it towed. I said ok and started back to the carwash. They stopped me and said, "since it seems to work for you can you drive it to your carwash so we can give the driver a good address?" I said ok and hopped in and drove it to the carwash. The guys came a little while later and asked if I had a jack so they could get the wheels off before the tow truck came. That's when I realized I just stole somebody's car. I told them I had no jack, and they took off to get one. I let the car sit in my bay overnight (it was late by now) and called the police in the morning (with a modified story that didn't involve me driving the car) and I never heard anything else about it.

thanks for that story :)

Baltimore sure is a special place. And you, sir, are a brave man with a big heart.

"It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go - maybe even longer. If a reasonably intelligent person learned to play Go, in a few months he could beat all existing computer programs." - Piet Hut

Stupid not brave

If we got stopped I could have been arrested for helping this guy move stolen property.
Everything he had was stolen. Al that story about grandma living in the senior center was bull. He stashed the stolen goods in black garbage bags under bushes and just kept stealing until it was late at night.
Then along comes sucker (me) and sees the guy waiting for a bus in a snow storm. Bingo!
He gets a ride, a meal and almost my cash.

It's funny...living in Baltimore in my 40's to 50's is when I started to become racist.
Black politicians, and black bureaucrats robbed the city residents with all sorts of creative thefts of public money.
Baltimore is a savage city in many areas. It's like a war zone.

I distrust all people. I

I distrust all people. I don't discriminate.

Did you become racist? or...

Distrustful of specific stereotypes within the black community. Based on your posts and comments, (which I usually find entertaining) I would have a hard time believing you hold entire races responsible for actions of individual idiots in your town.
Propaganda over the last 40 years has a tendency to instill guilt in the subconscious of many white people for having negative feelings about someone of another race. Just because you think there are a lot of a$$holes in your town, that just so happen to be black, doesn't make you a racist.

I think the seeds of racism were planted in my DNA when

Attila the Hun invaded Italy and raped my ancestors


Right on timbud