Holiday cheer is one thing: Peace, goodwill towards all men – all those non-Christian ideals that somehow got associated with Christmas. It’s at this time of year that people who normally wouldn’t say word one to strangers will chip with some platitude, and, let’s face it, you can’t not respond.
Twice today I was accosted by holiday “cheer”. The first was at Jack-in-the-Box, as I was leaving. A man had driven up to the front door and parked his truck in a no-parking zone. He’d opened his door but hadn’t gotten out, nor had he turned off his engine. He looked for all the world like someone who’d just been through the drive-through, and they’d asked him to pull out of the way because his food was going to take a while. It’s not uncommon, especially at around 10:00AM. People are starting to order lunch items, but they’re still geared up for breakfast, sometimes things like chicken take 5 minutes to prepare. It really bogs down the drive-through window if they don’t ask the people to pull up to let other cards through.
So, as I walk out of the store, the man in the truck says, “Merry Christmas!”, to which I respond, rather imaginatively, “Merry Christmas”.
And then the attack, “Hey, could you do me a favor? Come take a look at my leg.”
My reaction: (!!!!!!) The man’s “leg” was still blocked from my view by his car door, and I made sure it stayed that way.
“This happened to me earlier today on my motorcycle. We don’t have money for bandages or stitches or antibiotics or anything, but I’m not asking for money for that, I just need some money for gas. I’ve got my Marine Corps ID card right here, if you want to see it.”
How the hell do you respond to that? That’s got to be the creepiest, least plausible, money come on I’ve ever heard. He’s driving a great big new gas-guzzling truck, trying to show off his wounded leg and asking for gas money – and he can’t be bothered to turn his engine off. If he was after medical attention, he was about 2-3 miles from a VA hospital which, if he had his Marine Corps ID, they’d have taken care of. Somehow, I just think he was trying to get me closer to his truck, for what nefarious purpose I cannot imagine. Stranger Danger on that one!
This evening, we stopped in Taco Bell for a quick snack. It wasn’t very busy. A man of African American descent, wearing a hoodie came into the restaurant and went up to the counter, where he started talking with people – by name – working in the back, things like, “Hey Marion, Merry Christmas!” Obviously, they knew who he was. I didn’t give it another thought, until I went up to refill my drink at the soda fountain.
That puts me about 6 feet away from the guy. He turns and looks at me, steps forward, holding out his hand to shake saying, “Merry Christmas!”
Rather unimaginatively, I respond with, “Merry Christmas”. I hesitate on the hand shaking thing, but, it’s almost like a trained response. Someone offers a hand, you shake. He noticed the hesitation and altered to the knuckle-bump thing, which, I’ve never done in my life. So I end up doing this absurd knuckle-bump and handshake.
“So, you all ready for Christmas?” he asks.
“That remains to be seen,” I say.
“Hey, you and I are about the same age.” He points out.
I’m thinking, “OK, that’s a weird line of conversation. What does that matter?” Instead I respond, “Maybe thereabouts.”
“Are you 40?”
I don’t know why I responded to that, probably because this was just too bizarre, “Older”
“Nah, not that old.”
“You got your Christmas shopping done? ‘Cause, I know what you need for Christmas. It’s great for guys our age.”
I am completely, %$&#ing baffled by what this guy is going on about. By this point, I’ve decided he’s one of those insane, homeless people who talk to cardboard boxes. Instead, he goes on, putting his hand to his ear, which is obscured by the hoodie. “I know what’s a great Christmas present. Weed, man. It’s the best Christmas present.” He presented a small plastic bag up by his ear.
In all my life, no one has ever tried to sell me drugs. From what you see on TV, I thought you had to go downtown somewhere, and meet behind garbage cans to meet the drug-dealer scumbags, but no, they deliver to fine eating establishments like Taco Bell. Clearly, the guy was a regular, too, since he knew the names of the crew.
The best thing I can say for this guys is that he backed away immediately when I said, “no.” However, he was hanging out outside when we left and was making with the Christmas cheer chatter, talking at my wife as we went to the car.
Damn, that’s hitting way too close to my children. It’s time to have a talk with them.