by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO — When you reach my age, which is really quite young in terms of geologic time, you’ve had some experience with people bumming money. It starts with your milk money in grade school, and it ends the day you are beamed up by a UFO.
So I feel I have just about seen it all when it comes to panhandlers. WRONG. Last week in the parking lot of a membership warehouse in Pueblo, we had an encounter of the strangest kind – we met a panhandler who should win an Academy Award for best actor.
Now, you may not believe this, but there is an Internet site that instructs people on how to bum for money. One of the suggestions is “create a story.” Well the guy we met had studied well.
He claimed to be from Oklahoma, so I’ll call him “Okie,” and boy did he have a story. Apparently Okie got lost in Pueblo, which is a feat all by itself, and he was looking for Highway 50. He had just arrived in Pueblo from Oklahoma, driving south on I-25. (I know, I know, but it gets weirder.) Okie, who had only two bottom teeth, came all the way to Pueblo to pick up a prescription for his mother, who lives in Pueblo and just happened to be on the cell phone telling him what to do when we showed up with our groceries.
This woman should be turned in to child protective services immediately for sending this guy ANYWHERE in a car. It sure was a lucky break that we happened along, otherwise I fear he would have spent the whole night in the parking lot.
He darn sure wasn’t going anywhere without some help from us total strangers who weren’t from Pueblo, either.
We told Okie where to find Highway 50, and then the whole story just sort of tumbled out. He was in a bad way worried about getting to the pharmacy at Wal-Mart so he could do this errand for his momma.
Part of Okie’s story, told in the halting Oklahoma accent of someone who just learned to speak last week, was the unfortunate fact that Okie tried to get cash out of an ATM, but he couldn’t actually pronounce ATM, so he got my husband’s help reading it off of a piece of paper which he was clinging to like it was a parachute and he had just fallen from an airplane.
He needed the ATM because there was a thing called a co-pay (another word he could not pronounce) to pick up the prescription (a word he had absolutely no problem pronouncing) and he didn’t have the money for this CO-pay thing he had never heard of before in his whole life. It was $17.50. I’ve seen $5 co-pays and $10 co-pays, but $17.50? NOT! The longer we listened to this guy, the more I just wanted to get away from him and his blacked out teeth – I could see myself so desperate to end the story that I would just throw money at him and run away screaming.
Finally, Rick interrupted him and said, “So basically you just want money, right?” To which Okie replied, “Uhh, yehh.”
Did we give him money? Heck yeah we gave him a few bucks. Just memorizing that goofy story was a huge accomplishment. Hey, no actor on Broadway has ever turned in a better performance.
There’s no way he’ll find his way back to Oklahoma, so if he shows up in Huerfano County looking for his momma’s co-pay, you’ve been warned.