I have been pretty open about not really believing in Karma, feeling it is mostly a scare tactic and have grappled with my own contribution to the universe after many a martini. Last week I had a situation that reaffirmed many of the existential life crises.
After spending the last few weeks traveling (#humblebrag) my Ashkenazi Jew fro had hit maximum brillo pad capacity. Being in desperate need of a deep hydration hair mask, I saddled up my pooch in his illegal service dog vest and walked to my local Rite Aid to load up on some vodka and argan oil treatments. As I approached the entrance I saw a family of 4 standing with a sign that read “Homeless with 2 babies to feed. Anything helps, God Bless”. This isn’t going to come out right but here I go. I avoid homeless people like the plague. Sticks are free, find a tin and make some fucking music. Provide a service for compensation. Begging seems so half assed. This is America.
This homeless mother of 2 infants caught me in a very vulnerable state. “Sorry I don’t have any cash.” As I walked into Rite Aid with my hypoallergenic pup, one of her small children locked eyes with me and was giving me Sara McLachlan beaten puppy eyes. All the sudden I started hearing the familiar “In the arms of the angel… Fly away from here.” Fuck.
I was basically already in the clear, strolling right past them into the fluorescent lighting when I had a very out of character heart pang and decided I was due for a good deed. I begrudgingly turned around, went up to the mother and told her I didn’t have cash but would be happy to buy her some groceries. In my head, I though condoms would be the smart purchase personally. As I led her into the store she immediately grabbed a shopping cart. I was hoping she grabbed it as a possible guesthouse and not to fill with goods on my dime.
I suggested we go to the baby supply aisle because I am a philanthropist and immediately this bitch starting throwing shit in the cart like it was the fucking Supermarket Sweep. I’m not talking generic brand diapers and wet wipes… this poverty stricken asshole was hawking Jessica Alba locally sourced organic burlap diapers and aloe vera infused ass wipes. Um no. I suggested we gravitate towards thing with a yellow sticker but she clearly wasn’t listening. Soon the cart was overflowing with 70lb containers of organic formula, paraben free bottles, even some fucking toys and coloring books.
If I were alone I would have put the kibosh on this immediately. But other shoppers were giving me such nods of approval, one person even offered me a warm shoulder grab and said he was honored to witness such selflessness. That was a first. I considered asking him if he wanted to go halfsies on the final bill but contained the urge.
My attempt at a good deed was now making me resentful. I was gritting my teeth and murmuring things under my breath like “Want to go to the fucking Ivy after this? Do your babies like crab cakes? Perhaps a fresh orchid for your tent?” I grabbed my $38 hair mask feeling less guilty than I had a mere 16 minutes ago and got in line with my new sponsored family. Solely because there were like 6 other people in line I decided this was my mitzvah for the decade and I needed to suck it up and be gracious. Although every time I saw the woman peruse through the bins in the line I gave her wrist a quick slap.
Finally, I was at the register. The cashier started to ring up everything and I looked around at the Rite Aid staff and fellow shoppers and gave them all a nonchalant shrug that said “Hey! I do what I can. Humanitarian by day, good time gal by night. It’s no biggie.” For 32 seconds I was Mother Teresa. I considered buying a pastel sweater set, organizing a can drive and eliminating the word “cunt” from my lexicon… giving back felt so right. “Alright miss, your total is $463.28.”
It was over as soon as it begun. No fucking way. This was a defining life moment. I took a second to gather my thoughts, take a deep breath and figure out how to navigate this situation. Should I hand my card over graciously or am I going to shatter my short-lived image of grace and humanity?
“Oh fuck no. Can you give us a quick second?” I asked the cashier. I pulled the homeless woman aside and explained to her that I too would be homeless if I had to pay for all of these goods. I know found myself bartering with her item by item. “Do you really need this economy sized formula? Can you still produce milk from the tit? I hear it’s better for brain development and then maybe one of your sons can be a brain surgeon and get you a condo in the valley. Also rattles are a luxury item. Void please.”
After we had the store manager void 7 items, I then made the executive decision we needed to exchange our remaining goods for the generic brand which resulted in 5 very embarrassing PA announcements “Manager to register 3, we need to exchange the Honest Company diaper rash cream for the Rite Aid brand equivalent.” This homeless woman was NOT happy about her Supermarket Sweep going generic and had the nerve to tell me that if I didn’t need my $40 hair mask, her children could have new toys.
After 28 minutes of checkout drama, I was able to get my charity bill down to $120 and left Rite Aid with my head held low and truly bitter towards the whole experience. The woman hugged me, blessed me and I was on my merry way. I decided to grab a reflective iced tea at Starbucks and call my mom to brag about what a giver she had raised.
When I walked outside I saw my new rescue family standing on the street with the cart full of merchandise and imagined they were headed to the freeway underpass and got the same familiar heart pang that got me into this whole mess. A real full circle moment.
Until a brand new Honda mini van pulled up curbside, trunk popped (automatic) and her husband started loading all the shit I just bought into their car. My jaw dropped and rage filled my body. The doors slid open (luxury) and this “homeless” hooker started to buckle her kids in their seemingly non pre-owned car seats. I had to get closer.
As I approached the van I noticed Despicable Me playing in the fucking headrest TVs. Yes I said it, HEADREST TVS. What the fuck? They sped away presumably to their Bel Air estate before I could confront her and I sat their feeling helpless and taken advantage of. For my own state of well being I have convinced myself they LIVE in that car hence the leather interiors and built in entertainment system. God, I hope they live in that car… Is that awful? Nope.
Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor from giving.” No offense to Anne, but she didn’t get out much. The moral of this long winded and sure to be polarizing story is to never let someone shame your hair product selections, a small act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention and always carry cash.