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Fromthe Desk of Dora DePaoli: Is she an easy mark?

June 18, 2002

I must look like an easy mark. I am constantly being asked for money when I am around the Imperial Valley and when I travel.

On a recent weekend, while visiting kids in Orange County, a fellow asked for "gas money" in a parking lot. My son Tony, with me at the time, offered to follow the guy to a gas station and give him $10 worth of gas. He didn't take up Tony on his offer. I don't think he even had a car.

Then at Fashion Valley in San Diego a nicely dressed young man, in expensive-looking athletic gear, asked for "meal money." I think he was new to the vocation. He walked by me several times before asking me for a handout. He waited until there wasn't anyone else around. I guess it was sound strategy. I gave him money.

The one that bothered me the most on this trip was my female seat mate on Amtrak. She was assigned aboard the USS Nimitz and she was in uniform. She strongly hinted that she probably didn't have enough money for a taxi from the Sante Fe station to where she wanted to go in Coronado.

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People asking for money these days are certainly much better dressed and groomed than they used to be. It is not unusual to have fellows in ties and dress shirts approach strangers for money. Only rarely have women asked me for money. I'm a sucker for those with kids.

Once a woman approached me in the old Long's parking lot. I took her to a nearby restaurant, where she ordered two sandwiches. Her story was that her car had broken down on her way to Phoenix and she was in town for a few days getting it fixed. A week later she approached me again in the same spot. Before she could ask me for a handout I blurted out, "I gave last week."

A couple of tough looking fellows with bloodshot eyes once accosted me as I was getting out of my car at the old Thrifty's parking lot. They said they had just gotten into town and were hungry. I gave each a dollar because I was afraid. The next time I saw them heading for my car I headed in the opposite direction as fast as I could.

Now on to more pleasant things.

It was especially nice visiting my grandkids Devon and Johnny. Three-and-a-half-year-old Johnny has finally gotten the hang of potty training. Until last month he wasn't cooperating in the least.

His mother, Mary, read him children's books and they watched videos on the subject, all to no avail. His preschool teachers were as happy as Mary when he started using the facilities. The first time he did his business at preschool they made him a crown. Now he is the first to say he doesn't want anything to do with "yucky" diapers.

Another grandson, about 2 and a half years old at the time, once had to heed nature's call just as the airliner he and his mother were on was taxiing toward the runway. My daughter told the flight attendant the little guy had to go and that he wasn't wearing a diaper. The attendant reluctantly gave her permission to leave her seat with her son to use the bathroom. She gave her this admonition: "Make it the fastest —— in history!" He did, and they headed back to their seats in under two minutes.

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