Beggars Can Be Choosers

My friend Cheryl and I drove over to California on Friday night so we could hit the Disney parks early on Saturday. We left after work and by the time we got to Blythe we were a might peckish. After checking out the fast food establishments on the right side of the freeway, we decided on Jack in the Box, or Jack in the Crack as we like to call it.

As I pulled into a parking spot, we were facing a Circle K and saw two dudes on the side of the building. One was walking around, more like weaving, with a paper bag covered object in his hand. The other was sitting on the side of the building.

I said to Cheryl, "There's some men for us. Which one do you want?" She replied, "Well, the one who can't walk away, of course!"

We went inside to get our dinner and when we got back to the car weaving guy was nowhere in sight but sitting guy was actually up and approaching my car.

"Excuse me, I don't mean to bother you but I haven't eaten and I was wondering if you could spare some change?"

I told him, "I'll buy you a hamburger right now."

Years ago, a guy approached a group of friends and me when we were at lunch and one guy in our group made that same offer. The guy asking for money declined. I suspect he was looking for cash for booze or drugs. That made a big impression on me so, while I'll buy food, I won't give over cash. Well, that's not true. I have given cash because I'm a sucker.

The guy thanked me and I put my food in the car with Cheryl and started walking back to Jack in the Box. The guy fell in beside me but then said, "I don't mean to be picky but their food just doesn't sit well in my stomach. Would you mind buying me a taco from Del Taco instead?"

Really? Homeless and apparently hungry and you're getting picky?

Since Del Taco was just the other side of Jack in the Box, I said OK. Mostly because I was amazed that he would ask and also because I suspected he was trying to get me to just give up and give him cash. By the gods, I was buying food, dammit.

So, we trudged over to Carls's Jr/Del Taco where Frank, that was his name, was quite the gentleman and opened the doors for me and some ladies coming out of the restaurant. As we waited in the (too long for that quality of food) line, he started giving me his story.

He was heading to LA to a VA center for treatment because he had some mental issues from his time in the service. He used to have a dog but someone kicked it in the leg on July 3rd and it hemorrhaged to death on July 4th and the Blythe police wouldn't do anything about it because that's how they are. The reason the tacos were so good is that the soft shell is thick, almost like a pita. He likes the chicken ones because they have cilantro and are good with salsa.

We also talked about the weather. Did I mention the line was long?

We had only moved up two spots when he looked alarmed and said, "I forgot my cigarettes out there. I roll my own and when you're homeless they're hard to come by. Do you mind if I go get them?"

Again, being determined to buy the food and suspecting this was another ploy for me to give up and hand over money, I said "Sure. I'll wait in line and probably won't have moved much by the time you get back."

As he headed out the door, I sent a text to Cheryl. "This is crazy. He wanted to go to carl's jr for a taco and now he's going back for his cigs that he left while I wait in line. Lock the doors." Her reply was, "I did I just saw him. Ditch him."

I couldn't ditch because I had to see just where it was all going. A few minutes later, I had moved one spot in the line and Frank came back. The promotional deal as two tacos for $2.79. I asked him if he wanted two. He said he didn't want to be greedy but he had room for two then he told me to just get a cup for water as I didn't need to buy him a drink.

I finally got the order in then took the receipt and the number over to Frank where we was collecting his salsa. I handed them over and wished him well and headed out the door as he blessed me.

When I got back to the car, I got an earful from Cheryl. She was all, "This is how people get killed! They walk off with strangers!" I wasn't worried about that. It was daylight and there were people all over. If it had been dark, I wouldn't have done it.

Of course, she didn't come looking for me even though I was gone a while and she saw him come back without me. The most she did was text her sister in Phoenix to say I was probably dead in a ditch. Since I had the car key, she was stuck so I think she would have eventually come looking. I hope.

Frankly, I think she was just upset that I went off with the guy she had picked out for herself.

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