I was putting my items in my trunk as she walked up to me. She was soft spoken and actually walked past me a couple of steps before, hesitatingly, turned around. She asked, "Excuse me ma'am, but do you have a dollar or two I could use to get something to eat?"
Remember, I work in downtown. I am used to dealing with, and ignoring, panhandlers. But she struck me as different. She LOOKED hungry. She looked tired and needy.
I had just bought myself a turkey sandwich from Subway, so I said "I don't have any cash on me (which I didn't), but would you like my sandwich?" In ATL, if you offer a panhandler your food - even when they tell you they want the money for food - they will more than likely say no. She didn't. She said "Anything will help". It broke my heart! I gave her the sandwich and she took off.
As I was leaving the parking lot a few seconds later, I saw her standing at the end of the strip mall. She wasn't eating the sandwhich, but she was still holding it. She looked like she was waiting on someone, too. I didn't know what happened, but felt pretty good about what I had done.
Then I called Carl to tell him what I had done.
Turns out, this girl is married, but he beats her. She turns tricks to get hotel rooms for the two of them. Carl has arrested her for panhandling before. They are now living under a bridge.
Carl is two sides of the coin.
- He says she probably WAS hungry so I did a good thing there. BUT,
- She is known around town for that behavior. She is always asking people for money or turning tricks to get what she needs.
Today I went and had lunch at the PD with Carl and the other officers that were working. They started calling me "The Sandwich Lady" and teasing me about falling for her scheme.
It kind of hurts my feelings. I was trying to do the right thing. I don't think I did anything wrong. AND I'm not a hard-assed cop either. She was so skinny and soft spoken. My heart said to give her the sandwich... was that so wrong?
I may have been scammed somehow. I don't know if she ate the sandwich or was just taking me for a fool. It doesn't matter. I did what I thought was right.