SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 88: “Stay Alive”

I’m out with my family tonight. We stop to get gas and are approached by a desperate looking woman. “Please can you help me, We need to get home to Pomona, and we don’t have enough gas.”

I’m not sure if I have sucker written all over my face or I’m just charitable. Either way, It’s close to the holidays, and why not give a little. I tell her I’ll put $10 of gas in her car. Even though I’m very skeptical, I’m a man of my word, so I give them the gas. It’s the holidays after all.

But here is what get’s to me. I’m putting the fuel in their car, when I realize all the inhabitants are knocking back freshly cracked Red Bulls. At over two bucks a can, I know I’m getting duped, I quickly stop pumping. I’m done. I did my part, the sin is on them. If they are grifters, all I can do is hope they change their ways soon.

I try to give them a chance for redemption in inviting them to 365. What a surprise, they decline with a, “We’re sick.”

Within minutes they are after another target. A senior citizen who is pumping at the next station. These people are shameless. I’ve not even left the parking lot and they are onto mark two.

One thing I need to mention. My exploiting friends have one of my business cards. So this note is to them:

“I hold no grudge. But recommend that you do some deep self-examination as to your contribution to society. Ask yourself this, ‘What good am I doing for the world today? Sweet dreams.'”

Now back to the story. I approach the senior to whom my unnamed friends are soliciting, my goal, to be sure they take not a cent of his money. Well he is smarter than I, and is on to them, not a cent in exchanged. The grifters exit, leaving me with today’s 365 friend, Lawrence.

Lawrence is very gracious, but due to circumstances, he only has time for an extremely brief chat. I’m not even sure I can call it a chat. Lawrence is in a great hurry, his wife has been patiently waiting in the car, and it is obvious that she would rather be elsewhere.

I do my best to quickly give my regular introduction to 365: An explanation accompanied by an iPad sampling. We get through that, and Lawrence is engaged and intrigued. Time for questions. Well, what I really need to say is, “question.”

That’s pretty much all I get, “one question.”

But still, one question deserves one answer.

The question:
“What words of wisdom would you like to share?”

The answer:
“Stay Alive.”

It’s a start, I’ve had bumpier beginnings, but as I begin to crack my mouth with question two, the passenger door flies open, “Let’s go, I don’t want to have my picture taken,” Lawrence’s wife has met her wit’s end and is ready to go home. I appreciate her request and halt my interview, knowing if I press harder I am most likely putting myself, and Lawrence, at risk.

So appreciating the wisdom of I have gained this night, I lean on Lawrence’s council of “Stay Alive.” And the best way to do that is to honor thy wife.

I learn two lessons this evening.

Never give gas to grifters drinking Red Bull.


I don’t think I’m scared of carnies anymore.

Lawrence, thanks for the short interview tonight. You have a great sense of humor, and I hope you and your wife got home safely.