There was a woman sitting outside the Royal Farms on 41st and Falls where I'd stopped for one of their horrible wraps and awful coffees. She looked right in my face as I passed by but said nothing.
She didn't seem like a panhandler. Her cloths weren't dirty, she was wearing Keds with blue jeans rolled at the ankles and there was a composition notebook on her lap. She had a pretty, weathered face with a causal haircut that framed it well. I put her at about mid-forties.
With horrible Royal Farms wrap and awful coffee in hand I walked back to my car.
"Are you waiting for someone?" I asked as I passed her.
"No. I'm just a really bad panhandler," she said, deadpan.
I laughed. "Because you didn't ask for anything?" She nodded. I gave her what little money I had and got in my car.
I got back out of my car. "Do you want half my sandwich?" She said "no" and something else I couldn't understand.
I've read that we form first impressions in less than half a second — a conversation in and of itself — and having met several thousand people this year I think my First Impression-ometer is rather well tuned. But I couldn't understand my impression of her.
It wasn't bad or negative, but rather… I still don't know.
As I drove away she was writing in her notebook and smiling, and I was wondering if I should've sat down with her for a while. I had no interest in "saving" her — I can't even save myself — or "making a difference" in her life. I felt neither badly for her nor sympathetic toward her. She was there, I was there; she's a person, I'm a person… so why not sit and talk?
I'm not convinced she was a panhandler. To me she felt more lonely than poor. It also felt like something more was going on there.
Her name was Laurie.