Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trust Me.

I trust people. A little too much, but I do. I like the freedom it affords me. I like being able to leave my house and not worry that all the windows are locked. I like not having to gather all my belongings when I go to the bathroom at the library. I like being able to look at and listen to people without cynicism. I have been burned a couple of times, and it hurts like hell, but it has honed my Street Smarts and I can be a little more cautious, yet remain steadfast in my carefree, trusting ways.

So, this past summer, when I was pulling into the Wendy's to get some late night snacks before a marathon of t-shirt making, and a lady in the parking lot flagged me down - I stopped. It changed my life forever.

Her name was Sandy, just like mine but spelled differently. She had three kids and just wanted to get back to them. She didn't want money, she just wanted a ride.

It didn't feel right, and anyone else would have just continued to the drive thru with a "Sorry" and a "Good Luck". But her name was Sandy. She was middle-aged and overweight. I was pretty sure I could take her in a fight - I definitely could have won a Indian Leg Wrestling match (I size everybody up for a good ILWM). She had sad eyes and I thought I could give her something that would make that go temporarily away.

I should have known when I smelled the alcohol as soon as she took the front seat, but she was homeless and I was taking her back to the shelter, so that would be unfair. I should have known when the look of relief that I was expecting just continued as a look of despair, but who wouldn't be desperate when forced to rely on strangers? I should have known when my stomach lurched as I drove onto the unlit highway, but that would've let fear control me. So, I drove on to a shelter I knew existed with a woman who needed my help - whose kids would go to bed hungry, but they'd at least have their mom to tuck them in.

It was about a 15-20 minute drive to The Anthony House. I tried to fill the time with chatty banter that I have never been good with. I was picking Elle up at the airport the next day so I was telling her that I couldn't wait to see my baby. My other baby.

"Oh, you have more kids?" Sandy asked.

"Yeah, my 3 month old is in the backseat."

She started crying.

It was the scariest moment of my life. I knew then that I had been scammed. Wasn't sure how, but I needed to take control of this situation.

I asked her about her kids. She told me she was a bad mom and didn't know how she was going to go on. I told her that I would give her my 6 dollars that I had so that she could put gas in her car and take them to Orlando the next day. There was a shelter there that would help her. We all have hard times that challenge us, but we humans are strong and us moms are even stronger.

She told me she couldn't take my money, then what would I use to eat with. I told her I had friends and family in town and they would take care of me. It was late, I could just go to bed. Didn't I have a debit card, she asked.

I started crying. She asked me why I was crying. I told her it was because I couldn't do anything more to help her. But I was crying because I was the bad mom. I put my baby in danger. I was scared as hell.

I took my phone out and pretended to look at my map. I wanted to call for help. I wanted to type out a note to Elle and my mom and my sisters and my husband. I wanted to push the Ejector Seat button and get this lady out of my life. We were 2 minutes away.

I kept calling her by her name and telling her a story which was far from my reality, but probably much closer to hers. I told her I had come from a bad place and had finally started my ascent from the deepest hole - the one where you don't think you can escape from. But I had done it - and she could, too. I talked about a God I hadn't much thought about in 10 or more years.

We got to the shelter. There was a house right before it where her kids were sleeping, and the car she described as being the one that was out of gas. As I was pulling into the open parking lot, I remembered a bag of food that I had left over from our road trip from Kansas City just a few days before. I handed it to her and told her that her kids didn't have to go to bed hungry after all.

She thanked me and got out of my car.

The wave of relief that started with the slamming of the door was frozen solid as I watched her walk towards, not the house with her supposed kids, but a large man in the middle of the darkened street. She was waving him off, which distracted him enough to allow me to squeal out and back on to the open highway - with just a glance of her hitting him in the chest in my rearview mirror.

I sobbed the whole way back. I sobbed because I was stupid. I sobbed because I was sad. I sobbed because I was angry. I sobbed because I was scared. Because I'm not sure if I wouldn't do it again. What if it was all like she said? What if my fear was just born out of other people's insecurities? What would I do if I was truly a mom who couldn't feed her kids? What would I be willing to do?

I'm just thankful today that I'm not faced with those decisions. I'm also thankful to have yet another reason to avoid Wendy's.


Nuke718 said...

Sweet merciful crap you were lucky that time. I am a cynical paranoid SOB, but I really wish that people were more open and trusting. I think they generally live happier lives.

I am so glad you and your little one got out of this OK.

Dan said...

You helped someone, and nothing bad happened to you. The first part of that sentence is what makes you wonderful, and the second part is what makes me happy.

You choose to NOT live your life paralyzed by fear. Sometimes, that might lead you into danger, but think of how much narrower your life would be if you were one of those who lives her life in fear and seclusion.

By all means, be safer, but don't let the risks of an outgoing life make you less than you are.

Spyder said...

WTF! DON'T EVER DO THAT AGAIN! I'm so glad you & Demi are ok. There are other ways of helping people without putting yourself or your kids in danger. AND LOCK YOUR DOORS! You hear me?

Anonymous said...

What doesn't kill you, makes a really good campfire story.

Xavier Onassis said...

That was an honest, raw, and well told tale.

But it is safer to carry brochures from local shelters, food pantries and other social services that you can hand out to people in need. Slip a couple of bucks in the brochure if you must.

But never put yourself or your children at risk by letting people you don't know in your car or your home.

At least not until I get my Missouri 2009 taxes done. Call me! :)

Kelly said...

I love you

ambernicole said...

Oh my goodness, Sandie!
You are such a good person... I'm just glad that you and your family are safe... wow! Just reading that was kind of scary.
love love love!

I'm taking in all the happenings in Kansas City and saving you all the trouble . . . I'll let you know whether to soak it up or squeeze it out!!