The other night I was indulging myself in my favorite form of retail therapy: grocery shopping. I love walking through aisles and cataloguing various store prices so when I check out and the cashier can scan the receipt and announce, “You’ve saved forty dollars,” and I can say with much hand gestures and sports-arena-level enthusiasm, “You’re damn right I saved forty dollars! Who’s taking the Safeway now, sucka? In yo’ face!” As I waddled my cart toward my car, two blonde teenage girls approached me. Both were dressed in baggy bondage pants and puffy coats. One girl headed toward the passenger window of another car and the other stopped in front of me.
“Excuse me, but my mom lost her job,” she rapid-fired, “and I need to sell these potpourri bags so my brother can have some baby formula.” She opened a plastic bag with dime-sized mesh bags inside, each tied with a thin ribbon.
I shook my head. “Sorry, I don’t have any cash.” This was partly true. I’m sure I had a dollar in change lurking in the bowels of my wallet, but it would require me pulling out my wallet and what if she grabbed it? She would have certainly beaten my pregnant ass in a race, why would I risk it? And no, I did not believe her sob story. It was dark, almost seven at night, and somewhere there’s a baby in need of formula, depending on his sister to make a dollar from mini-potpourri bags. Was she trying to appeal to my pregnancy, that I would sympathize with her situation? If I bought her story, I would have escorted her inside and purchased the formula myself. But no, I didn’t give her anything. I looked back and her friend was tapping on other people’s cars. Formula-girl walked off without making any further plea. I emptied the groceries into the trunk and when I looked up to see if they had made any progress, they were gone.