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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Paranoid or prudent? You make the call.

Last night I was at Target wandering the toy aisles just to see what was on clearance when a man approached me. He was African and dressed nicely -- a winter hat, jeans, leather coat. I had my cell phone in my hand because I'd been texting Annie. He told me, with a foreign accent, that his phone had "powered down" and wondered if he could use my cell phone to call his friend to come pick him up. 

I said no. Well, really I said, "No, I'm sorry, my phone is about to die," which wasn't true, but seemed nicer than a flat out "no."

He thanked me and walked on. I saw him a few aisles over approach another customer. 

I thought about what had happened and wondered if I had been wrong to say no. Certainly it was wrong to make up a story. I could have just said, "No, I'm sorry."

As he walked away, I thought about what made me uncomfortable about the situation. It wasn't the color of his skin. It was two things. 

The first was his accent. In the 15 seconds that it took for me to hear his request and formulate a response, I made a judgement that he might call some faraway country and rack up big charges on my account. Or that he might, somehow with me standing right there, get me caught up in a big scheme. The fact that we were as far away from the entrance to the store as possible was the second red flag for me. If he was arranging a ride home, why wouldn't he be nearer to the exit? 

Was I being paranoid? Prudent? I've been the target of a scam before, so I'm sure that colored my response. What would you have done?


rebeca @ the average parent said...

It's hard to say, but I might have suggested that he ask the store manager to use their phone. Or perhaps I would have alerted an employee that a customer was in need of a phone. I'm sure the store would have helped him out, while keeping an eye on him all the same.

Shelley said...

While I'm aware of the verse from scripture that encourages us to act charitably toward strangers because we can "entertain angels unaware," I also think listening to instinct is important. If you felt red flags, trust them, but if you also feel that sense of dismay because you refused to accommodate a stranger, then say a prayer for that man and do another act of kindness for someone else. God can sort it all out from there, right?

It's important to help people, but it's also important to be smart, and sometimes you don't have anything else to go on but those red flags popping up out of nowhere.

kimybeee said...

i agree with you - if he just needed a ride, why didn't he ask the target manager to make the call for him. too much going on in this big world that makes us unable to trust people.

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