I just got back from the grocery store, and I feel like utter crap. My girlfriend and I were in line behind a young couple; they were indescript enough until I realized how slow the line was moving and decided to tune in and see what the hold-up was.
As it turns out, their debit card kept getting denied, and they were doing the requisite, “Hmm, that’s weird, I should have more than enough…” routine. They were obviously quite embarassed.
His wife was ushered away to try and check out at another counter so that we could move forward, and the husband went to the ATM to check his balance. We shortly joined the wife at the other counter (where we were buying a couple of lottery tickets). About a minute later I saw him come back with a peculiar fascination with his own shoes, and hand his wife the balance slip. She looked at it, paused for a bit, and then did the courteous thing by offering the clerk to put the groceries back.
I knew what I had to do.
My plan was simple — pull the guy aside, hand him some cash and my card (I rarely carry cash, but I happened to have some) , quietly whisper to him to just get with me later to square up, and then walk away. The key here is to do it away from his wife and any other onlookers, and in a way that spared them any additional awkwardness.
I tried to see what was in their cart so I could tell if my roughly $30 in cash could cover it, but between that and actually making my purchase (it was now my turn and there were people behind me) I got caught up and lost a few seconds. When I turned around they had already left their cart and made their escape.
I feel like shit. I’ve been that guy before. I was that guy for a very long time. I know the ride home is not going to be an easy one for him. Not only did he not have the money for the groceries, but he and his wife suffered an embarassing incident because of it. And to top it all off, it’s only the 19th of the month. He was Military, and won’t be getting another check until the first of December.
So that’s why I feel like a pussy. I didn’t pull the trigger. I had a few seconds to step up and do the right thing, but I pussed out.
Driving back I realized what I could should have done: I should have pulled him aside and said, “Hey, man! You still at the same unit? (pulling him aside and saying very quickly and quietly) “Dude, I’ve been there before — don’t sweat it. I’m going to get some money out of the ATM real quick and give it to you. Tell your wife I owe you $80 but I could only give you $60. (That’s more believable than saying I owed him exactly what I gave him)
But no — I didn’t do that. I let the opportunity slip away.
So remember — if you have the chance to help someone like I did, just do it. Do it fast. Right now he’s embarassed without groceries and I feel nutless. If I had done the right thing quickly he would have had groceries, felt better about the human race, and I would have had testicles.
Don’t be a pussy.