≡ Menu

Panhandling Pangs

My husband was backing out of a parking spot at a fairly busy store when a man suddenly knocked on the window of our van. DH was startled, and stopped where he was, blocking the aisle of the parking lot. When DH rolled down the window, the man shared his sad story with us. Apparently he was visiting from a smaller college town about 3 hours away and his wallet was stolen. His vehicle was out of gas and he was stranded. So he had stopped us to see if we had any money he could have for gas.

I have been approached like this several times in my life, and I try to help however I can. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my purse with me, and DH only had his debit card. So, as we looked around our vehicle for spare change, the man told us that he had filed a report with police, but “they’re not going to fill my tank”. At this point another car had come up behind us, but our van was blocking traffic. Inside the van, the baby started crying and my toddler was yelling that he had to go potty. As DH handed the man the change we had found, I wished him good luck and figured that was that.

The man wasn’t done though. He looked down at the coins in his hand and asked if that was it. After all, he still has to get home. DH was flustered and made the mistake of offering an excuse. He told the man that we didn’t have any cash, just our debit cards, so we couldn’t help him. That is when the man really showed his entitlement. With a car behind us, waiting, (the man had positioned himself in such a way that DH couldn’t move our van out of the way without hitting him), a crying baby, and a toddler yelling from the backseat, this man asked us, “Can you go inside and get some cash? Come on, do you know how embarrassing this is, to have to ask for money like this? I’ll pay you back if you want.” My jaw dropped. DH looked like he was ready to explode. At that point I leaned over and told the man no, that wasn’t possible. I again said good luck and good night. DH rolled up the window and the man tried to get his attention again. Finally he stormed off and DH was able to finish backing out and get out of the way of the car behind us. As we were driving off, the man raised his hand. Did he give a happy, thank-you wave? No, he did not. His wave was angry and he only used one finger.    0705-11

You encountered a professional panhandler who specifically targeted your vehicle right at the moment you were most vulnerable with a sob story as old as the hills.   A very good friend of mine had an uncle who professionally panhandled like this for a year and made a right decent yearly salary, too.   The story becomes less and less plausible as cell phones become more and more ubiquitous.   Run out of gas?  Call the wife, friend, co-worker, AAA.

It is not rude to decline to facilitate someone’s panhandling and public begging.  I personally would not have given him any money whatsoever but what you said to him was fine.   As you rightly concluded, no one is entitled to your hard earned money merely because they claim to be down on their luck.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • kat August 20, 2011, 8:14 pm

    I was in Philly with my husband in for a procedure at the hospital . I went for a walk about town when i got the call he was finished. I was so worried as i hurried down the street. One panhandler said to me “do you have any extra” and stopped mid sentence. Said he was sorry he thought i was someone else .I do believe he thought i was homeless as i had such a worried look on my face. They will take care of their own . I was impressed but did not say anything ..just went on my own way..another time i went for a smoke and a guy in a nice suit asked me for one. I didn’t give him one. We also had a town bum who slept on the streets , he passed and everyone found out he was loaded..just wanted to live his own way- I guess .He never begged or did any thing wrong.