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The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly1

August 27, 2003



He pulled into the Fry's parking lot at 19th Avenue and Dunlap, rolled into a convenient parking space and shut off the engine. He glanced at the clock on the dashboard. Gotta make this quick, he noted to himself as he got out of the vehicle; two bags of ice and I'm outta here. He had been visiting his mother on the west side of the valley, and had left later than anticipated for the 45-minute return trip. It was mid-evening and he should have been home an hour ago.

As he walked briskly toward the supermarket entrance, a young lady in her mid-20's approached him unexpectedly from the side.

"Excuse me, sir," she began. "Excuse me. . .I wonder if I could get your help. You see, my car broke down and I'm stranded. I just need $1.25 for bus fare. I'd really appreciate it if you could help me."

The Good

He attempted to size her up. She was dressed plainly and carried a small shopping bag. Her hair was a bit disheveled, but looked clean. And she looked a bit stressed. Not a lot of information on which to make a decision.

"I just need to get home before the busses quit running," she continued; "my children are there alone."

He wasn't a fast thinker when it came to panhandlers, and he knew the smallest bill in his pocket was a $20.

"I have to get some change," he responded, "can you wait until I pick up a bag of ice?"

It would buy him a few moments to think. As many panhandlers as he had been accustomed to dealing with over the past few years, he didn't feel like he could afford to give handouts to everyone who asked. He had to choose the most deserving, those with a real need.

"Sure," she responded, "Thank you."

On the way into the store he made up his mind to give her a dollar when he came out. It wasn't as much as she was asking, but he didn't entirely believe her story. Wouldn't most people have called a friend or family member for help? Had she pointed out the car, it would have helped her credibility. He could have asked, but he was concentrating on his own issues and he was unemployed, himself.

He approached the freezer, picked out two bags of ice that seemed to contain less frost than the others, and worked his way through the checkout lane. It took all of about two minutes and he was back out the door with a dollar bill in one hand. As he crossed the lot he looked around for the young lady, but she was nowhere in sight. He strode directly to his vehicle and got in, in hopes of being gone before she returned.

He shifted into gear and eased up on the clutch. As the vehicle began to move, a gentleman in his late twenties or early thirties rushed in from the side, waving his arms madly to attract attention.

"Wait, wait..."

Feeling trapped, he stopped the vehicle and rolled down his window, a bad mistake. The man was very well groomed and looked quite polished, a black man in his late twenties or early thirties wearing dress slacks, a shiny black belt and a matching sweater.

"Are you good with mechanical things?"

The Bad

"Oh; sorry, I thought you were asking for a hand-out. What is it you want?"

This response was based entirely upon the man's appearance.

"I can understand that, he said, grinning; "I can hear my fuel pump running, and I pump my accelerator, but my car won't start."

"Sorry, I can't be of any help," he responded; "I don't have sufficient background for automotive questions."

A long story ensued, an epic about life, a car in the parking lot of a bowling alley, an intersection at I-17 and Northern, love, a Castle Boutique, and on and on. It wasn't clear whether he wanted a ride, someone to look at his car, or simply a shoulder to cry on.

". . .please help me." He finally paused.

"I can't," he responded, "I simply don't have sufficient background to solve automotive problems."

"It's simple. I need a new fuel pump. I already have most of the money in my pocket. If you'll lend me the rest I'll pay you back just as soon as I get to a bank."

It's definitely a novel approach, he thought. But where was this guy going to get a fuel pump installed at this time of night? The man was leaning on his open windowsill with both elbows, so there didn't seem to be an easy way to extricate himself from the conversation. He knew he shouldn't have rolled down the window in the first place.

"Sorry, I'm not gonna go for it."

"Look," he says, "I have $209 in my pocket. And to fix this problem I need $220. All I need is $11, and I guarantee you you'll get your money back."

"No way."

"Trust me. Just lend me $11. If you'll write down an address for me I'll guarantee you can get your money back. I'll send it to you right away."

None of it made sufficient sense.

"I'm not gonna do it."

The pleading continued, and so did the denials; obviously, this guy wasn't going to take no for an answer. They went round and round about half a dozen times more.

He cranked up the resistance, "I've got ice melting here. . .Gimmie a break! I need to go."

The Ugly

That still didn't do it.

"Look," he said, "my wife is black, and she'd shoot my white ass if I fell for such a stupid story. I gotta go."

The man stood up abruptly. He shifted the car into gear and departed.

August 27, 2003


1Pardon our unabashed plagiarism. It is a quote from a source we admire.



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