I’m Too Niceon September 24, 2011 at 8:59 am
Let me tell you a tragic story with no ending as of yet. There’s an old lady, obviously in poor health that comes to my door every time she thinks I’m home and asks for handouts. At first it was fine, she’s very polite and if you tell her no she leaves. but this week she’s come by four days already, so now it has to end.
It started one day after the Hendersonville Apple Festival. I was home, preparing for a party I was trying to throw that night (which didn’t go so well, but I know exactly why) then there’s a knock at the door. I answer to see a nearly toothless, very wrinkled, black woman with a walking cane standing on my porch. I’m not in the habit of letting strangers into my home so I come out onto the porch to talk to her. She’s polite, tells me I have a nice house and asks how long I’ve been in the neighborhood. Then she starts into her routine. If you’ve ever been approached by a beggar you know exactly how this goes, “I’m down on my luck and I have a bad hip and today’s my birthday and I’m hungry and I don’t smoke or drink and blah blah blah…” She tells me she’s walking to the gas station on the corner and asks if I have any money I could give her so she could get a snack. I normally wouldn’t have any money, but like I said before, I had been at the Apple Festival earlier that day, so I knew I did have some cash and since I’m a sucker I reach in my pocket, feel a single bill, and pull it out without thinking. It was a twenty dollar bill, and as soon as I saw it in my hand I remembered that it was the only bill I had. It was all I could do not to curse. I told her it was the only thing I had on me, and as much as I wanted to say, “too bad for you”, I had already told her that I had money I would give her. With a deep breath and a sigh I handed over the twenty dollars.
This isn’t a new problem for me. My whole life I’ve been one to give whatever I have in my pocket to people who ask. Even as a child I couldn’t resist putting a quarter in the salvation army buckets that show up around Christmas, and as an adult if someone asks if I have any change it’s hard for me to lie to them. Lucky for me I usually really don’t have any cash on me, so when I say, “No, just have cards.” It’s true and I don’t feel guilty.
I think about three days went by before I saw the toothless lady again. She walks up when I’m out on the porch and is very polite and thankful. So much so that I really though she had just come to thank me for the other day, but then she asks if I have any change I could give her. Immediately I recognize my error. Beggars on the street are people you usually never see again, or if you do see them there’s no recognition, but this woman came to my house! She knows who I am and where I live. I knew damn well that I had a jar full of coins inside the house, but this was not okay. I had made a mistake before, but I’m not about to reinforce door-to-door begging. It wasn’t easy for me, but I lied to her and told her that I don’t keep any money in the house, explaining that it was very unusual that I had money that first day. She took it at face value and left, and I didn’t think any more of it.
When a beggar spouts out their routine of woes and sorrow, you automatically know that most of it, if not all of it, isn’t true. You can generally assume that they don’t have three kids and aren’t really trying to get something to eat so they have the strength to keep walking to Jacksonville to see their family. But for some reason when this old lady told me that she didn’t smoke, I believed her. Something about the way she said it maybe, but either way she would soon prove to me that not only am I too nice, but also too trusting.
A few days later there’s another knock at the door. It’s the old lady again, asking for change. I tell her the same thing I told her last time, that I don’t have any cash, it’s all in the bank. Then she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a half smoked cigarette and asks if I have a lighter. For a split second I thought about calling her out on her previous lie, but decided it wasn’t worth my time. I grabbed a grill lighter, lit the cigarette for her, and told her to have a good day.
Since then she’s been back here probably five or six more times. It’s really getting on my nerves, because I never know when she’s going to show up. One day she told me that she had seen my wife and that she was very pretty. I asked Lindsey later if she had talked to her and Lindsey had no idea what I was talking about. I really wanted to tell this lady off and tell her not to come back, but she’s always to nice it’s hard to do. Lindsey told me she would tell her for me, because it upsets her to see me upset. This week I’ve been taking her car to work so it looks like I’m home. Sure enough she came, but even Lindsey, once she met the woman, didn’t have the heart to tell her she wasn’t welcome anymore. Now the woman has started asking for other things! “Do you have any soda you could give me?” “No, we don’t drink soda we only drink juice.” “Oh! Can I have some juice?” It’s just rude at this point.
Really it was rude all along, I honestly don’t care if people want to beg for change on street corners, but coming to someones doorstep is crossing a line. This is my sanctuary, where I come to get away from the worlds troubles, but there you are, bringing trouble to my door. I keep thinking about what I’ll say next time she shows up. Imagining myself calmly informing her that I don’t think she should come by anymore, but in reality I’ll probably just tell her I don’t have any money and wait for her to leave. You’d think she’d get the message that she’s not getting anything else, but if anything her visits are becoming more frequent. We’ve always been the type to lock our doors when we go somewhere, but now we double check.