The Grubby Gentleman

Apparently, if you leave my daughter alone in the stationary/greeting card/party supply aisle at Wal-Mart, she looks like a good candidate to ask for help. I’m not sure why – what with the teenager reputation of being all into themselves. I don’t know how long it took her to find the birthday card and Starbucks gift card before she found herself waiting for me to return from the home repair section on the opposite end of the store. All I know is that she was busy enough when I got back.

Specifically, she was looking at a greeting card with a very sketchy looking man. I was suspicious – not alarmed, but definitely on alert. I threaded through the other people between us and approached carefully. She grabbed the card and said, “No this is one for people wishing you a happy anniversary. Let’s see…”

She returned to the row of cards and began searching. I stepped up to make my presence known. Not that I cut an intimidating figure, but still. The man was dirty and his skin was covered both in tattoos and years of sun damage. His clothes were very worn. He was claiming that he had forgotten his glasses and couldn’t read the cards.

It was his anniversary and he felt very relieved that he had remembered. But he was having trouble finding an appropriate card. He wasn’t touching Jane or standing too close or anything that would set off any further alarms. I joined the search.

Jane found a card that would work and he held it while she looked some more. When she read the next one to him, he snatched it and declared it perfect. As we turned away from the racks, he thanked us and said with a smile, “Now I just need to go find some flowers.”

He even shook each of our hands before walking away. Not a threat. Not a pervert. Just a man looking to do something sweet for his wife. It occurred to me later that while his story might have been true, he also might not have been able to read, or read well.

As we walked away, Jane leaned over and said, “That’s the second person I’ve helped today. Before he came along, I helped a woman in one of those scooters get one of the birthday balloons down.”

Maybe seeing that was what made the man decide to approach her. I’m proud of her and her little good deeds. I’m a little saddened that I’ll still need to talk to her about being careful in situations like that. Just because… unfortunately… not all men, grubby or not, are as honest and harmless as that gentleman turned out to be.

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