I saw her walking towards me even before I set foot out of my car. She walked with a limp and carried a crooked cane. Her hair was curly and mostly grey. She had tan skin with the most adorable freckles dotting her nose and cheeks.
“Do you want to buy me a sandwich?” she asked me. There was no sheepishness in her voice, just a small lisp and an inflection of hopefulness.
I stared at her. For a moment I weighed my options. I had the money, luckily that was not an obstacle. I wasn’t in a rush and for the life of me I couldn’t think of an excuse to say to her that first of all was believable and secondly that I would feel good about saying.
“I’m headed into this Subway. Do you want to come in with me?” I asked.
Eagerly she shook her head yes and followed me in. I asked what her name was, to which she smiled and said “Gildred”.
I took my place in line with the lunchtime crowd. Shyly she asked me, “What type can I have?”
“What type would you like?”
“Do they have ham? I’d like a ham sandwich.”
“I believe they do. What type of bread would you like?”
“White. I like white bread.” Another smile, lifting the cheeks housing those adorable freckles.
We continue through the line a little further and Gildred turns to me and softly asks, “do you suppose I could have a small drink too?”
By this point I am feeling like she is pushing her luck, but I say, “Sure, why not?” instead.
I pay for our meals and help her get a drink. I am about to leave when the Subway employee in charge of keeping the tables clean, who also happens to be disabled, comes over and says “hi” to Gildred. Then she comes over to me and thanks me for being so kind as to buy Gildred a sandwich because normally she was the one to do so.
Apparently mooching Subway sandwiches is a skill Gildred has mastered.
For me, it was the freckles. I could not say no to the freckles. But you know what? I’m not upset about it. I don’t feel like I’ve been had, although I suppose I was. I guess I just feel like I did a kind deed. Not just for Gildred, but for the minimum wage Subway employee as well. I can live with that.
What about you? What do you do when you are accosted by the lunchtime beggars? Is there a correct way to handle it?
PS – When I came back from lunch I shared my story with a co-worker who said the same lady had approached him a month earlier. He too bought Ms. Gildred a sandwich.