Jim Beam column:’Just get me a Pepsi,’ he said

Published 8:30 am Sunday, July 17, 2022

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American Press

My Good Samaritan experience last Saturday didn’t turn out as well as the Jesus parable about a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. The man was stripped and beaten by robbers and left half dead.

A priest and a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. A Samaritan, however, took pity on the man, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn, and paid the innkeeper the next day for his stay.

The man I saw after leaving exercise was disabled and walking west on two crutches in the grass on the south side of McNeese Street near a lumber company. There are no sidewalks there.

I turned around at the nearest street and stopped to ask him if he needed a lift. Yes, he said, and hopped in. His name was William and I asked him where he was headed.

“To Lake Street,” he said, “I’m on my way to Houston.”

I assumed he was going to flag a ride near Interstate 210 but asked him if he had ever taken a bus. He said he had but didn’t have any money. I told him I would buy him a bus ticket.

The worker inside said he didn’t sell tickets and it had to be done online. I got my cell phone out and started filling in all the ticket details. I hit the pay button a number of times, but nothing happened.

When the clerk couldn’t help, I walked outside and asked a man working at his computer what my problem might be. He asked if I had included my email address and said I would get confirmation that way.

Well, I never got anything. About that time, what looked like a new Greyhound bus with an Orlando, Fla., address up front pulled into the parking lot. Before I could talk to the woman driver, she got into an argument with a passenger waiting to get on the bus who must have said something she didn’t like.

“You’re not riding on my bus,” she told the man, but he didn’t move. When I finally got a chance to ask her how William could get a bus to Houston, she said the best thing he could do was ride her bus to Baton Rouge and make a Houston connection there. She said it would cost $70.

I went back into the convenience store looking for an ATM machine. It was in a dark corner and I couldn’t read the keypad or the instruction buttons on each side.

The clerk came around and asked if he could help. Since I couldn’t see much, he asked me to put my card in the machine and to tell him what I needed. I had to give him my PIN, but I got the money for that ticket.

When I went back outside, William was standing far away from the bus next to a light pole.

“What are you doing standing out there?” I asked. He pointed at the bus entrance where there were now two policemen. The argument the bus driver was having apparently got out of hand.

I was eventually able to hand the driver the $70 and William was apparently ready to board the bus. However, he said he needed something to eat.

“Can I get you a sandwich inside?” I asked.

“Just get me a Pepsi,” William said.

While getting his Pepsi, William came into the store.

“What are you doing in here, William?” I asked. “You’re going to miss the bus.” He was reaching for a package of cookies.

I told him to go back out to the bus and I would bring him his Pepsi and cookies. I handed them to him with two $20 bills and he was able to board. The driver helped him reach a seat up front.

I waited until the bus drove off before leaving, hoping what the driver told me was good information. I also hope William got to Houston, but I may never know for sure.

Life shouldn’t be this difficult for people like William, who is disabled and experiencing unbelievable struggles just to get by from day to day. I tried to help him this time, but what happens  next time?