Have you met Stephanie?
Stephanie lives in my neighborhood. She is the subject of much discussion and many e-mails, some of which come from the police; a distinctly marked woman you can confuse with no other; a woman who has knocked on doors at 2:00 a.m. to ask for money.
I hadn’t seen Stephanie for a while, but I saw her recently.
“Excuse me? Excuse me?”
I look up from my weeding in the front garden. This is not the first time I’ve been interrupted by people asking for money while I’m weeding. I blame it on an alluring combination of stained gardening pants and paint-spattered Elvis-commemorative-stamp tee-shirt.
Drives the peoples wild.
Stephanie de-bikes, leaving it on the sidewalk, and approaches rapidly. “Could I talk to you for a moment, ma’am?" she says. "Ma’am, are you a Christian woman?”
Ah. This is not the first time I’ve heard this approach.
“No,” I said. “Sorry, I’m not.” I go back to my weeding.
This does not deter Stephanie. “Ma’am, do you have some money?”
I stop weeding and sigh ever so slightly. “Yes, I do. Now are you going to ask me to give my money to you?”
“Yes, ma’am, if you could just see your way clear to giving me a couple dollars, I haven’t eaten in two days.”
I look up at her. She doesn’t know that I know where she lives, that I know her last name, that we frequent the same bars. Despite her propensity for begging – Mike bought her two drinks at Mayslack’s just to shut her up about how hard it was for her to find a job now that her face is covered with tattoos – she is a slender, well-dressed married woman who lives in a nice house.
Stephanie may have issues, but not eating isn’t one of them.
“No, I’m sorry,” I say. “I don’t have any money. I’m working in my yard.”
“You could run inside,” she offers.
I stare at her.
“You could run inside,” she repeats. “I’ll watch your, uh, your – “
“Spade,” I say. “And I don’t want to run inside.”
She keeps talking. Surely I am a Christian woman? Surely I can see my way to giving her whatever "spare" money I had? Maybe eleven dollars? Do I have eleven dollars to spare?
Persistence is her strong suit.
Eventually my husband comes around the corner.
“Sir? Sir?” Stephanie leaves my side and launches into her speech. Poor Willie has no defenses against brazen women; and after hearing less than a couple lines of her spiel digs into his pockets and gives her two dollars.
And with that, Stephanie jumps on her bike and is gone before you can ask – and feel free to join in here – “Ma’am? Are you a Christian woman?”