I'm parking my car and Don Cheadle starts yelling something at me. (Ok, not the REAL Don Cheadle, but the guy looked like him and it's easy to remember.)
"My family needs help! Look at the cop's lights!"
Indeed, I had seen a cop with a mini-van pulled over a minute before when I was exiting the highway. It puts the money in the pay box. Don is still yelling stuff about his wife and kid in the car.
Enough of my stupid narration. The story speaks for itself. My "thoughts" in italics. Don:
Sir.Here's a man showing me some respect. Loved you in Traffic, by the way.Don:
Sir. Did you see the car broken down on the highway?Me:
Yes.Damn! Admit nothing.Don:
That's my family in there!Here's really yelling a lot. Do I look like I have a hearing problem?Don:
Sir, I'm not a bum.Hmmm, relatively well-dressed, doesn't reek of booze. His story checks out.Don:
I'm here from Toledo with my family. My son is sick. We took him to . . . Chuck E. Cheese? Where? Oooh, this is a good story. I should ask what his son's name is.Don: Rainbow Babies and Chil- and Children's Hospital
. I don't know if I'm saying it right.Uh-huh. Real tongue twister you've got yourself there.Don:
He had kidney surgery and I ran out of gas and I don't have enough money to get home.A 240-mile roundtrip and you had, what, 10 gallons of gas?Me:
Ok.He senses my weakness. What if, just once, one of these people TRULY needed my help. It's possible, right? I'm 99% sure Don is lying his ass off, rather well, but it's not inconceivable that he needs my help - to get drunk, most likely.Don:
I work at Royal Chemicals as the night supervisor. Royal Chemicals, eh? Sounds possible.Don:
I have a good job; I make 15 dollars an hour.What? And you can't afford a tank of gas?Don:
But, my life is kind of messed-up right now and I'm going to get it turned around.This guy is good. Appealing to my desire to root for the underdog while also explaining why he can't fill the gas tank, clever Mr. Cheadle, clever. Although, perhaps you should have said your son's "treatment" was very expensive and you spent all your money on his care.
It was then that I made the ultimate mistake of giving strangers money (beyond the part where I give them money). I took out my wallet without knowing what was inside. You see, much as a lawyer should never ask a question without knowing the answer, you never want to take out your wallet without knowing the denominations of the bills inside. Once the wallet is out and you don't produce money, you're open to the snatch and grab, the shiv in the kidney, the taser, vulcan death pinch, the whole pantheon of grifts and heists is now bearing down on you. I was thinking I'd give him a couple of bucks, Jesus gives me a high-five, and I'm good to go for a month or two. What do I see staring back at me? Four cold, judging eyes, all belonging to Andrew Jackson. Fuck. I mean, double fuck.
By now, the die was cast. Hoping agianst hope, I handed over 20 dollars.Don:
I have to go to Salvation Army and they'll take me over to the gas station and then my car.He's going away from the gas station. Damn! The Salvation Army isn't a taxi service. Couldn't you have at least let me BELIEVED you weren't fleecing me? Just for five minutes? Just take the money and go, Don Cheadle, you brilliant bastard.
I get into the office, hoping, nay praying, that Don Cheadle was telling me the truth, even a little. Even though I knew he wasn't. Looking to restore my faith in humanity, I google Royal Chemicals. There's no Royal Chemicals in Toledo. There is a Royal Chemicals
. Wow. That's quite a commute. I guess he did need the money.
Later, a co-worker says, "I'm coming into work and I got this guy yelling at me about his kid in the hospital and he's out of gas and he has to get back to Painesville
." (Fyi, Painesville is east of Cleveland about 35 miles, Toledo is west about 120 miles.)
I'm convinced I give my money away to entertain you people. Here's the rundown:
Parking, one dollar.
Don Cheadle's Gas Money, twenty dollars.
Giving Don Cheadle 20 bucks to take his "sick kid" home to "Toledo" where he works for "Royal Chemicals" and then writing a blog post about what an idiot you are . . . 21 dollars, but in abstract terms, priceless.
A fool and his money are soon partying. Oh, parted. That makes more sense.