Wednesday, February 18, 2015

     So, we pull up to this tacky-looking gas station in some remote part of northern Florida. The rains are pounding on the broken metal roof of the overhang. Mr. Wonderful gets out and begins his fill-up ritual. First, he grabs a piece of toweling so he won’t have to touch the nozzle. He carefully examines the card reader to be sure he understands how it functions. (I’m always sure it’s going to just suck his card in along with our entire life savings). Then he opens the thingy and begins to pump. At the moment he is about to push the lever, a voice calls from the side of the building, “What kind of license plate is that?” Our license plate is French, “Ma Joie.” Mr. W. responds, “It’s French.” “Oh, I never saw one like that,” says the guy in the red sweatshirt who is standing in the cold next to a woman who looks like she just picked her daily garbage supply out of the local barrels. Her coat was down to her ankles, and her hair hung all wet over her eyes. 
“We bought the car in Europe,” Mr. W. offers. “What is it?” asks the bag lady. “It’s a Porsche (pronounced Porsh-a). It was very apparent neither of these two had ever seen or heard of such a car. In the meantime, a white jalopy pulls around the corner in front of the two, parallel to our car. A young guy in it just sits there, looks over at us briefly and then fiddles with something next to him in the front seat.I am thinking to myself, “Why is that guy just sitting there next to us? What an idiot.” Once we are all done, and Mr. W. goes to get back into the car, the guy rolls down his window and asks, “Hey, Mr., I am so sorry to bother you, but I work for the railroad, and I don’t get paid until tomorrow. Could you spare a few dollars for gas?” Mr. W. isn’t sure he heard him so asks him to repeat it. The guy keeps apologizing with sad bunny eyes, and Mr. W. motions for me to get out some money. I don’t think; I react. I grab a $5 out of my wallet, and hand it to him. He gives me the “Don’t-you-have-something-smaller-like .10-look.” I stuff the $5 into his hand and indicate with my bright browns that we need to skeedaddle.

      He hands the guy the money, and off we go. “Why did you give him that much?” I’m thinking, “Maybe I should have given him $2.72.” Being a savvy wife, I zipped it, thinking to myself, “Perhaps you shouldn’t have engaged to begin with.” 

     Why did we give money to this jerk? Too many Criminal Minds repeats? Too many headlines showing what scammers do to old people who don’t oblige? If I didn’t give him money, would he have rammed our car or followed us to our hotel? 

     After a few miles of silence, Mr. Wonderful says, “I think it was a scam. The three of them were in it together.” “No,” I shrugged. I don’t want to believe that, thinking to myself that he was probably right on target. The two homeless types engage the gas pumper in conversation, acting friendly and interested to get all the facts. Somehow they secretly relay the info to the guy in the car around the back, who then pulls up next to the victim.
The rest is obvious. If this is true, I wonder how many suckers like us give him $5, and how long it takes them to buy whatever it is they need:  boos, weed, Cheerios?

     The guy in the car drove out of the gas station and into an adjacent convenience store. He obviously had a plan, and it wasn’t pulling up to a pump.

     Duh. I could’ve bought a Latte with that.