Someday I might need gas money to get to Texas , too . You never know . I’m too old to pretend to have a baby with my wife waiting in the car . Why Texas ? I think it was a sick , or dying ? , father down there . And no gas to get there . And , of course , no money .
I should give you a few dollars because you asked ? I guess if you don’t ask , you probably won’t get anything .
Decades ago , when the Hari Krishnas , and the Moonies , and the Born Agains , and others , infested the L.A. airport , I was there with my old friend Fred Kail . Why we were there I don’t remember . Neither of us had any money in those days to fly anywhere . We must have been there to pick someone up . Doesn’t matter .
All of these askers-of-money seemed to be dressed well , in crisp white suits and polished shoes , and they carried clip boards ; even the Krishnas ; even the Moonies . Well , at first the Krishnas wore their orange robes , enraptured smiles , and , maybe , occasionally , hopped a little . But , I suppose , that wasn’t working for them . Some head Hari in charge maybe talked to a marketing guy . Get a crisp white suit , he must have said ; maybe a fedora hat to cover the shaved head ? ; and don’t hop …… and don’t mention Rama or white rice . The Moonies got on board , too : white suits ; clipboards .
They all looked like they may work for the airport . What is it , a survey ? An airport promotion of some kind , or a security check ? They would approach just-arrivers , especially foreign people arriving with confused expressions , and begin their hurried spiel , holding the clipboard as if it should be respected , as if the confused traveler were being spoken to in some official capacity . Was it Customs ? The airport broadcast continuous announcements : These solicitors don’t work for the airport . You don’t have to give them anything .
Fred and I were walking into one of the terminals when we were approached by one of these anonymous beggars shrouded in white . This one was a cute girl . Maybe in light of that Fred reached for a bill to give her . I tried in that brief moment to dissuade him . He had a fiver in his hand . What , are you crazy , Fred ? A weak moment ? She’s a Moonie , man ! He held the five dollar bill out to her .
” Most people give ten dollars , ” she said .
Wow ! Yeah . Pushing her luck just a little bit . Fred instantly flicked the fiver back into his pocket . ” I’m not most people , young lady , ” he said . And we were off . I was reassured . At least old Fred hadn’t completely lost his mind .
So , I’m pumping twenty dollars worth of gas yesterday into my car in the mid-day heat , minding my own business , when a young guy , maybe twenty-two , twenty-three , walks over . I’ve seen him approach a couple of other gas pumping people on his way across the lot . ” Meaning no disrespect …..” he says to me . His opening gambit .
I’m not in a good mood that day , you should understand . Too hot . I’m looking at his tatoos . He’s evidently covered with tattoos . How much do those cost , buddy ? , I’m thinking . Maybe you could have saved the tattoo money for your needed gas . He looks healthy , strong , despite the hang-dog expression , the ” Meaning no disrespect , sir … ” ploy . What , are we in the Army ? Sir ? That’s supposed to sound respectful , to impress me ? Melt my stone-cold heart ? I’m supposed to be awed by this guy’s pathetic circumstances . Now , it’s my responsibility to buy his gas ? Why would that be ?
I’d rather have the fruit seller on the freeway off ramp , or the beggars with the cardboard signs : ” Veteran God Bless You anything helps homeless ” Once in a long while I hand them a dollar , although I’m not under an illusion that the dollar helps . I think the homeless veteran god blesser should go to a social agency or an established charity or a church and get the help that will keep him/her off the roadways with the scribbled bullshit cardboard signs .
So I told the gas station beggar , a little too firmly , that I wasn’t going to give him any money . He walked away . He’ll find some sucker soon enough . I stepped around the other side of the pump and asked some man with a Volvo , ” Will you pay for my gas ? ” He didn’t laugh . I could see his little ‘crazy person’ antenna immediately go up . He shook his head solemnly and looked away . I could see that he didn’t know if I was joking or not . Can’t be too careful these days.
Maybe I wasn’t joking . Maybe I should start asking . Ask and you shall receive . If you don’t ask you won’t get . It’d be easier for me just to canvass the people at the gas station when I go for gas . Won’t someone pay for my gas ? I have to get home . My cat’s sick and I need to replace the front garden hose . I’m trying to upgrade the modem for my DSL . Anything helps . I want to get to Oregon next fall . Need gas desperately . Sir . How about a few dollars ? Meaning no disrespect .
I was walking , once , with my Danish friend , Ivan , when someone asked for money . ” You’ve chosen your lifestyle , ” Ivan told him , “not me . I’ve chosen my own lifestyle . ” The poor guy was listening . Ivan speaks authoritatively . ” I don’t ask you to finance my lifestyle , ” Ivan said . ” You shouldn’t ask me to finance your lifestyle . ” And we walked away . At least the guy didn’t call us ‘sir’ and make something up about needing to get to Texas . Or dress up in a crisp white suit and carry a clipboard .