Friday, July 31, 2009

31 JUL 09: Not a Light, But a Lyte

It's amazing, but it's true. Since I put small sacks of food in the trunk of my car late last year for needy people, the number of beggars I've met has dropped dramatically. I really don't think you can smell a sealed can of vienna sausages from 100 yards away....

BLOGGER BEGGARS #3-4: After a three-month dry spell, we encountered two beggars in Columbus in a 30-minute span this week. Beggar #3 caught our attention while we waited for a traffic light to change at Cusseta Road and Benning Drive. At least he didn't pretend to be like a group I met in Toronto, which tried to wash my windshield like a NASCAR pit crew.

The beggar was across Benning Drive, holding what looked like a bottle of laundry detergent. "Can you give me a cigarette?" he asked - as if he needed a backup way to remove an ugly stain from a dress shirt.

"I don't smoke cigarettes," I told the beggar. "They're not good for you." At that moment the light turned green, I turned left to move along - and the man was left to improve his lungs by walking on without nicotine.

A few minutes later I stopped at Cross Country Plaza, to buy a couple of items at Publix. This parking lot attracts more beggars than you might realize -- and it did long before the Columbus Public Library opened, so you can't blame it on people with overdue books.

As I approached my car with two items from Publix, Beggar #4 stopped me with a lengthy story. "I just started a job at Fort Benning," the man explained, "but my car broke down. It's being repaired at White Automotive...." a repair shop several miles down Macon/Wynnton Road. And the man was too big around the waist to receive a military discount.

The car repair was costing this man all his money - yet that wasn't all to his story. "My wife and I are staying at the Efficiency Suites," he said. "My wife's pregnant." Oh no - did this man actually decide from my sweaty T-shirt and shorts that I was an obstetrician?

Thankfully, the beggar needed something else for his pregnant wife. "She's dehydrated, and her doctor says she should drink something called Pedialyte." My bag contained skim milk and diet cola - but this "lyte" beverage was completely new to me. For all I knew, it could be a low-calorie drink for low-impact walkers.

Clearly my "beggar bags" with meat and juice wasn't going to answer this beggar's need, so it was decision time. "We'll go inside, and I'll buy you the Pedialyte," I said -- hoping we wouldn't wind up in the aisle with beer and wine.

I put the milk and soda in the trunk of my car, and walked with the beggar back inside Publix. "I've never shopped for this sort of thing before," the apparent first-time father-to-be told me.

"I've never shopped for it, either," I answered. This moment wasn't quite right for an episode of "Two-and-a-Half Men," but it was close.

We walked to the aisle with baby items -- and after a little searching, I found the giant bottles of Pedialyte on a top shelf. The beggar was about to ask women in the aisle for assistance when I found it. To his credit, the man didn't proceed to ask the women for help in buying towels.

Pedialyte actually is a drink to help children recover from diarrhea and vomiting. But the beggar insisted a doctor recommended it for his pregnant wife. At least the doctor didn't suggest she eat Gerber baby food as well....

I used a credit card to make my second Publix purchase in five minutes - two one-liter bottles of unflavored Pedialyte. As the beggar took the bottles, I stuffed the receipt in my pocket and walked out the door. That way, he couldn't turn around to ask for a refund -- or possibly make an exchange for unflavored bottles of whiskey.

As I drove home from Publix, the questions started filling my mind. Did this beggar know something I didn't about Pedialyte? Could it possibly contain some measure of alcohol, or an ingredient for a "high?" After all, it must have been on a top shelf for a reason. Yet the checkout woman never asked for my identification - perhaps presuming gray hairs were sufficient.

But as I kept driving, I ruled out that theory. Why would you put alcohol in a children's medicine? Besides, Pedialyte already recommends keeping a separate bottle of alcohol in the medicine cabinet. It's rubbing alcohol for sterilization, but still....

Some online searching at home led to two possible explanations for the beggar's need. He could have been telling the truth all along, as a family of doctors recommends Pedialyte for pregnant women. One member of that family appears on the TV series "The Doctors" - but it seems they're often too distracted by sex topics to get into this issue.

On the other hand, I also found web sites where people confess they drink Pedialyte to recover from hangovers. This beggar was walking slowly, but he wasn't stumbling around the store -- and he was able to say "Pedialyte" without spitting on me.

Now that we've given you a surprise health lesson, let's move on to some Thursday news headlines:

+ Fort Benning officers showed off a new hand-held security scanner, which can check visitors at the gates. WRBL reported it can scan the license plates of every state - except Georgia. It's nice to see one state government still believes that Biblical "mark of the beast" language.

+ Columbus State University staged a security drill, in case someone with a gun ever tries to go on a rampage inside a building. If all else fails, the C.S.U. Police will be happy to call for backup snipers from Shooters down the road.

+ A Randolph County, Georgia judge ordered the school superintendent and the school board chairman jailed four days for contempt of court. I suspect an appeal is planned - since teachers only face three days of furloughs.

+ The Georgia "sales tax holiday" began. But this year, teachers were NOT provided with gift cards from the governor for school supplies. Apparently Sonny Perdue decided it's improper to provide "Sonny Money" from a rainy-day fund.

+ Lanett Mayor Oscar Crawley announced the Municipal Airport will receive $24 million in federal grant money for improvements, including a longer runway. And amazingly, the city was NOT required to rename the airport Kia International.

+ Two DeKalb County, Georgia police officers were placed on leave. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports they're accused of running a criminal background check on President Obama from a patrol car. Aw, c'mon! Is that the only remaining way to verify where he was born?

+ Instant Message to President Obama and his staff: Why stop there? Why not have all sides in the health care debate gather at the White House for beer? Or would the American Medical Association object, citing potential liver damage?

SCHEDULED NEXT WEEK: Expect the unexpected.... that's all we're saying for now....

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