Thursday, August 19, 2010

City Street Smarts - A Lesson Learned

Well. I had an interesting encounter this morning. I don't know what to think of the experience, really. To be honest, I'm still a little shocked. Actually, I'm more than a little shocked. I'm utterly stunned. Flabbergasted.

So I went through my usual routine, got off the GO train, walked into Tim Horton's, and (instead of my usual Banana Nut muffin) purchased a small Iced Cap because it was devastatingly warm. And as per usual, I was minding my own business, just like those walking on Front Street rushing to get to work. Men in snazzy suits, women in heels, people gabbing away on their ever-so-trusty Blackberries. A typical Thursday morning.

And as per usual, I walked down University Avenue, sipping my Iced Cap, obsessively checking what time it was on my cell phone to make sure I wasn't late, distractedly picking lint off my blazer (OCD tendencies, what did I tell you?), and giggling at my recent text messages. Then it happened. Oh yes, it happened.

All of a sudden, a woman (dressed in a beautiful suit) walked up to me sobbing uncontrollably. And immediately, being the (dense) sucker I am, I felt a pang of sympathy. She asked if I could spare any change. Through tears, she told me that her father just passed away, she was being kicked out of her apartment, she was behind on rent, and she had no money for breakfast. With tears pouring down her face, she told me that she was on her way to work and that she was so very very hungry. She just wanted a breakfast sandwich from Tim Horton's. Could I spare any change?

In my defense, after listening to her for a few minutes, her story did sound legitimate. She looked completely harmless, and her story was just so sad! And so I reached into my purse and pulled out my wallet to see if I had any change. Unfortunately, I only had a $10.00 bill (which I needed for lunch) and 8 CENTS in change. I also knew I wouldn't have time to go to the bank if I gave her my $10.00 bill. Apologizing, I handed over my 8 cents and said that was the only change I had. And that I'm sorry!

As if on cue, her tears stopped. The look of pain vanished from her eyes. She grabbed my 8 cents, started scowling, and rudely asked if that was all I had. Shocked, I said yes, it was. She rolled her eyes, muttering something about how selfish I was. Without even a "thank you," she asked how I could only spare such a small amount. Didn't I listen to her story? Didn't I know how much she needed my money? Worse yet (and this really is the worse part), she reached over and tried to grab my beloved Coach purse off my shoulder, claiming that she wanted to check my wallet to see if I was lying. Friends, this was my favourite Coach purse. My darling Coach purse. The love-of-my-life-never-gonna-let-it-go Coach purse. I gasped in fear! FEAR, I tell you! Immediately, I pulled away, clutched that purse to my chest, and ran across the intersection.

I have no idea what possessed her to do such a thing. She looked perfectly normal. She spoke perfectly normal. But would a perfectly normal person grab a total stranger's purse? Would a perfectly normal person berate a stranger about their lack of change?

I have no idea if she was crazy or if she grabbed my purse out of impulse. But clearly, this incident has absolutely reminded me of the value of Street Smarts. Our city is full of con artists, scam artists, with people who will do anything for money. Let's all be careful, no matter what the situation is. Excercise cautiousness. Excercise Common Sense (something I obviously didn't do today). No matter how sad the story, no matter how harmless an individual looks, you can never be too careful anymore. Never!

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
- Sir Winston Churchill


  1. On two separate occasions, I had two men ask to borrow $500 from me (and with a promise that they'll pay me back)... which leads me to wonder if I'm actually that stupid looking =(