Monday, May 23, 2016

Confessing Failure to Help

It's 10pm in the parking lot of a hotel, and we are just arriving, tired and looking for a good night's sleep. A minivan pulls up, window down, and a young Black woman says, "Sir, I'm not asking for any money or anything but we just need a place to sleep tonight. We can check into a shelter in the morning, but they don't have room for us tonight."

Well, I'm not going to ask her to share a room with my wife and me, and I'm not going to check her in on my credit card and ID, taking responsibility for anything that might happen in the room, regardless of how long she might stay. I doubt the Holiday Inn would even allow that under the circumstances.

I admit that I am suspicious, thinking that it is really just money she wants and that she may be going home somewhere at bedtime. I'm concerned about who else might be in the car and whether it is an organized scam, maybe even a setup for armed robbery if I get too close to the car, wallet in hand. My wife has walked on to the hotel entrance and is waiting there for me.

So, I ask the woman, from some distance, if she has a credit card, and she says she doesn't. I suggest that the shelter that has agreed to take her in the morning should have a referral system for some place she can get temporary shelter. Surely suburban Atlanta has such a system in place for single women with children, if that is, in fact her situation. I don't see the children but there seems to be a child seat in the car. I would have known where to send her in Columbia SC.

I tell her that I can't help her, and she drives away.

After getting to the room, I still have her on my mind and wonder if she is circling through the parking lot and soliciting other arrivals, so I go back outside and look around. My plan is that, if I see her, I will ask her to park her car at the door of the hotel and come inside by herself, in view of security cameras, so I can see her ID and discuss her dilemma with her. I have a couple of hundred dollars in cash and will be glad to give her enough to pay for a room somewhere that does not require a credit card, a small gift of no consequence to me and possibly very helpful to her.

I don't see her anywhere. So, I go back to the room feeling guilty for passing up an opportunity to help somebody, obviously in much worse shape than I, even if she is lying and scamming.

If I ever face that same situation again, I now have a plan. I will say to the driver, "Drive to the front door of the hotel, step out of the car by yourself and go just inside the door by yourself, where there will be security cameras and I can see your ID and we can discuss your situation in a public place. Maybe I can help."

If she takes me up on that, I will be glad to give her enough money for a night in a hotel. And I won't have to feel guilty, and she can do whatever she wants to with the money. If she doesn't take me up on that, I will know it is a scam.

As for the young woman I encountered Friday night, at least, if she was telling the truth, she is in a shelter now.

1 comment:

  1. you handled it well, and have a plan for it ever happening again. we learn from our mistakes. sadly most people would probably have ignored her