“I care about a lot of white people.”

I probably should’ve taken the whole paragraph that was from as a kind of warning sign to make excuses and go.

I was coming out of the store at nine at night, with a gallon of milk, some bananas and a box of wine.  We’d driven over 20 of the last 36 hours, coming home to two very affectionate cats and a house with nothing for breakfast, so I drove to the nearest store we use.  An obese black lady—really, not the BMI stuff– between my age and my mom’s, walked up with a cup and I braced to give my “I don’t carry any cash” speech…when she asked me for a lift to the Walgreens down the way, opening with “one of my kid’s daddy is white, and I know a lot of white people, and I care about them…can you please give me a ride?  I care about a lot of white people.”  She seemed kind of confused, and while bigger than me—who isn’t?—didn’t seem like too much of a threat, and Walgreens is REALLY well-lit.  So I told her I had to text my husband to tell him I’d be a little late, did so, and we headed off.

So I picked up a stranger to give them a lift, even though her much-repeated monolog really rang my uh-oh bells.   We get to the Walgreens, and she says she meant the one that’s further down the road.  I pulled out again, and she asks me to turn on the light…and she starts digging in her purse.  Which is a LOT bigger, and has more stuff in it, than I’d noticed before—I thought she just had a couple of grocery bags, since the store I was at has really great prices that are worth walking an hour or so.  Paranoid me, I reach down and make sure I can reach the Flashlight of Doom—you don’t have to be a physical threat to use a knife, or a gun, and I’m willing to hit someone that’s attacking me.  And there’s nothing insulting about adjusting something in your door, especially when you flutter like I do and it “keeps falling down” every time you touch the brakes.

She pulls out a pile of mostly one-dollar bills and a little light comes on over my head—she’s one of those “I just need a few dollars to get home” folks.  Who will work the same area for a  week or two.

We’re talking, a little, the whole time—she’s telling  me how she has six kids (13-22, half girls, half boys—I think the youngest was the one she kept talking about as half white, she never said his name.  Couldn’t get a theme—there was Jimal, and I think something like Mary, and two really old sort of names.) and is staying with some friends, and how they charge her rent to let her stay there.  I mention my girls, and appologize for being bad conversation, since I’ve been driving all day.  She finishes counting and says something about how she thinks someone got in her purse, and starts counting again.  The counting never did sound right, and the amount missing kept changing, and I then she tried to get me to turn off on to a dark back-road behind an apartment complex that I KNOW is barely big enough for a car to head down…I kept going to the Walgreen two buildings down, apologized and mentioned that my mom had made me promise to never pick up or drop off folks anyplace that wasn’t really well lit and public, we mused on how it’s horrible how you can’t trust people these days, she thanked me and got out, talking about how I’d scared her to death, her daughter keeps telling her about how there are terrible people out there….

She didn’t head back the way she’d been trying to get me to go.  I didn’t see where she went, but she definitely didn’t head back up the road to the complex.  I pulled out and headed a mile or so back home, shaking and thanking God that the Navy and my family taught me basic things about not being a good target.  Changing destination, big marker like the overhead light being on, odd behavior, and a poorly lit area that would mean my nightvision was even MORE ruined than the overhead had already done?  Outside of the street lights, the windows would be mirrors.

Maybe she was just an older lady with a bunch of kids who really is having a horrible time, and she’s mildly offended that the little white girl that gave her a ride wouldn’t drop her off at the door.  Or maybe I just barely avoided walking into, at best, a carjacking.

I really am an idiot.

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5 thoughts on ““I care about a lot of white people.””

  1. I’m glad you’re okay. The saddest thing to me about the encounter is how a generous act can become so fearful. When I lived in Utah, lots of folks picked up strangers, and helped people with broken cars. In the East? Everyone here is too scared, and the fear may even be reasonable. Such a sad state for our fallen world

  2. Glad you’re okay! You should read Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.” In a nutshell: your instincts are usually correct, but he breaks it down and shows how to analyze things so that you trust your instincts.

  3. Thank you both– and I’ve got the book on request from the Library, Laura. My family has stories about trusting your guts about things like that, and part of why I was so very nervous was that I was uncomfortable right off the bat– but I thought it was the mildly insane racism the lady was spouting. It was only after I realized she had a big purse that little Mrs. packs-her-cc-handgun-in-her-diaper-bag realized this was a bit more of a hazard. The lady that thinks her ex-husband has Navy special forces using tiny cameras to monitor her house has a similar effect on me, and I know she’s harmless enough to give a lift.

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