Today I was stopped on the way to lab by a man who looked very distressed. He told me he had a flat tire, his car was by the train station (2 blocks away) and it was going to be towed if he didn’t move it in the next 30 minutes. He had 30 dollars (which he showed me) but said he needed 40 to get a spare from the tire shop (which was up the road a few blocks). He looked halfway between an normal person and a homeless guy. He had glasses and a cell phone, but his shoes had holes and his clothes didn’t fit very well. He said he lived in East Brunswick and that he had ID on him.
I am no homeless-kicking city boy, but I am just a tad proud of proud my reaction. Firstly, I drilled him with 20 questions, making him repeat his facts and trying to get him to contradict the first version of the story he told me. He handled these pretty well, and I was starting to feel like he may be genuine. I told him I’d walk him to his car and see the flat and then he could have his ten bucks. He suggested instead that we walk to the tire shop, since it was closer, and buy the tire. I agreed and we started to walk there.
Then, without a ring to be heard, he picked up his phone and talked to his wife/”wife”. He hung up and told me his wife had gotten the money, barely thanked me, and quickly turned the other way powerwalked in the direction of the train station.
I am a little sad I may never find out whether the dude was trying to scam me. If only I had the wherewithal to ask to speak to his wife on the phone. I would have taken the phone, heard the silence on the other end of the line, then spiked the phone on the sidewalk and performed a touchdown dance over its shattered circuitry. Following this, I would have gone after the dude, wrastled him to the ground, broken his glasses, and taken $10 from his stash of 30. A few spits in his face and kicks to his kidneys and off to lab I go.
It’s true that his cell could have been on vibrate, but the whole mess feels like it may have been a scam. One would think that the tire place would accept some sort of collateral for being 10 bucks short? One would think a guy with a cell phone would carry a credit card, or have the resources to dig up some cash? One would think that a car with a flat could be driven to a metered space, or at least out of the way enough to buy more than 30 minutes time with the police?
Either way, I still have my ten dollars.