His eyes drooped and his shoulders sagged.
Christmas was coming, and he and his wife were stranded. They had no money. They had no gas. And their home in Tulsa was 90 miles away.
He asked our family if we could help them get home in time for the holiday. They just needed three gallons of gas — less than $10.
I told him we didn't have any extra money, but he should call Upward Transitions, a nonprofit with a program that helps stranded travelers.
We walked into the store, and I felt a little guilty, knowing I had $10 to spare.
Then my husband saw him: the man who minutes ago begged for mercy in the cold.
He was asking his wife what kind of computer cord she needed.
He bounded off to the electronics section. She stood in the returns line with an armful of items to return, talking loudly about how they were having trouble with their home computer.
I gave her the evil eye.
Then I announced loudly that I wouldn't say anything about how horrible it was to try to scam people, especially during the holidays.
I continued giving the evil eye — even eviler than before.
I'm pretty sure my husband shuffled away from me so people wouldn't think we were together.
Plenty of scammers like to take advantage of the kindness of others, and the best way to prevent it is to look to agencies that help people who are actually in need.
Upward Transitions caseworkers check out every client who needs transportation assistance, said Terri Womack, community outreach program director at Upward Transitions.
Drivers have to have licenses and insurance. Travelers who receive bus tickets have to have a specific destination and a place to stay when they get there. And they have to show the reason they're stranded.
It's hard to do that kind of fact-checking when you're approached by a supposedly stranded traveler. People who want to help should refer them to Upward Transitions, Womack said. The office is at 1033 N Walker. The phone number is 232-5507.
“If they're wanting to help,” she said, “it's better to refer them to our agency. We try to verify their situation.”
Then they can verify that the guy headed to Tulsa was really just headed to the electronics department. And I won't have to embarrass my husband in public.