I have a problem. Well, honestly I’ve probably got hundreds of problems, but this story is about only one of them. Okay. Maybe two of them.
I went to the dermatologist yesterday because I have some spots on my skin that won’t tan. They turn red when I get heated. And they spread like Wisconsin Democrats. What were once two small spots on my forearm are now covering most of my body from neck to waist. It’s totally awesome. And hot.
I call them spots. My doctor call it a fungus. I have more than one spot so he should have said fungi. I was going to correct him but he would’ve probably said something like “Its many spots, but one fungus.” He is silly. …like most skin doctors.
So I after I get my prescription to remove aforementioned fungi from my body, I head to Walgreens. Walgreens in West Memphis, Arkansas is a happening place. You can get Diapers, Orange Juice and a Snuggie and be out in three minutes. It appeases my impatience in that way.
Walgreens is also one of the more popular spots in the county for meth cooks to send their minions for pseudo-ingredients. Or so the West Memphis Narcotics Division says. Narcotics Officers sit in big trucks with illegally tinted windows and eat snacks outside Walgreens for 48 straight hours while waiting for some snotty nosed 60 year old to walk out with a paper bag that looks like it contains cold pills. All the while, tractor trailers full of cocaine bricks zoom by not 100 yards from their cheetoh stained hands on the most heavily traveled interstate exchange in the 48 states. Barney Fife would be so proud.
Walgreens also sells prescription pills that hopefully eradicate fungi. While I waited the hour and a half for the pharmacist to take ten pills out of a big bottle and put them in a little bottle, I returned phone messages from my awesome hands-free phone setup in my car.
While I was busy trying to make a living, I was approached by Jerry. Jerry was probably 55, heavy-set and nicely dressed in khaki shorts and a polo-style shirt. Jerry is not his real name. I rolled down my window.
Jerry told me he was on his way home (Rome, Georgia) when his car broke down eight days ago. His car was currently at Sunrise Buick being repaired. The car’s repair had been repeatedly delayed due to missing parts and shipping times. In the meantime, Jerry, his wife — the apple of his eye, I’m sure– and his daughter had holed up at the local Howard Johnson spending every last dime of their cash on this unexpected 8 day crapcation in West Memphis, Arkansas.
Jerry needed to get home. He needed money. He needed food for his family. He needed gas for his car. He needed a lot. He explained that he was a Christian man who had worked five days a week his entire life and it pained him to beg. I was thinking it pained me too, but that’s only because I was feeling selfishly awkward.
The responsible thing to do was to ask “a few preliminary questions.” I mean I can’t go giving money to any John, Rick and Harry that ask for it. So we had a little dialogue that went something like this:
Beggarly Jerry: Seriously, it pains me to ask you for money.
Inquisitive Me: Well, you said you are a Christian, do you go to church in Rome?
Accosted Jerry: Of Course! First Baptist Church Rome, Pastor Snider is a good friend.
Slightly More Inquisitive Me: Can I call the pastor to confirm this?
Insulted Jerry: Pastor Snider is on a week long mission trip with the church Seniors.
Suspicious Me: Can I call anyone else at the church?
Irritated Jerry: Look. Its been a long day. I’m hot and I really do not feel like being interrogated.
Self-Righteous Me: Is there anyone in Rome I can call to make sure you are who you say you are? There are panhandlers here all the time. Just one name?
Defeated Jerry: God bless you. Have a good day. (Jerry exits stage left)
Let me say, for a moment, I felt like Columbo.
I had destroyed Jerry’s inconsistencies with the ease that only comes from years of skepticism. I had shredded Jerry’s dignity with precision. I was overjoyed. What a victory! That’s how you do it, ladies and gentlemen!
Go try your scam on someone else, Jerry. Loser.
Then I called Dick. Dick is awesome. I call Dick whenever I have a story to tell. When I am down, he lifts me up. Dick is not his real name. I told Dick about my exchange with Jerry. I was proud that I was willing to give Jerry money but more proud that I was cunning enough to sniff out the snake oil. Dick was proud too which made me more glad. Me and Dick were glad together. I told Dick I loved him and hung up.
Then I had a terrible thought. I’m sure it didn’t come from me. So what if Jerry WAS a loser? Should I help losers? So what if he was a small-time con-man? Should I have communicated a different message to that loser…er, I mean Jerry?
I left my post in line at Walgreens and drove around looking for Jerry. I wasn’t quite sure what I would say if I found him. Surely I can do better — I should do better — than sending him on his way wagging his sorry tale behind him.
I circled the store scanning the adjacent parking lots of Family Dollar, Victory Church and Lenny’s. No Jerry. Maybe the a Narcotics officer had arrested him for walking through a handicap spot too slowly.
Then I saw Tom. I needed to talk to Tom. I’ll tell you why in Part 2.