As I was heading home from grocery shopping this morning, I saw a gypsy woman trying to get a lift. Knowing how hard it is for anyone to hitchhike these days, much less a gitane, I pulled over and offered to take her since our roads would continue on the same path for some miles at least. Better to get her a little farther down the road in the blistering heat, even if I couldn't take her all the way. And, I thought, here was my chance to pay forward a good turn done to me once by travelin' folk (some gypsy men gave me a trout when I had no luck fishing in Sancerre).
The gypsy woman climbed in the car and began by thanking me and telling me she had a pressing appointment with a doctor. Still sing-songing her thanks, she promised to say a prayer of blessing for me. I thanked her for her kindness and off we went. We hadn't gone far before she informed me that she would read my palm for me. Knowing that it would be a "paying" service, I politely declined and told her my beliefs do not permit me to do such things.
"Oh, you don't believe," she said.
"No," I corrected her, "I said my faith doesn't allow it."
"You're baptized. You're a Christian." At my nod, she said, "Fine. Give me some money, please. Something for the hungry children's bellies."
"I only have my credit card," I told her. Not exactly true--I did have a small amount of cash--but I make a point of giving people money only under certain circumstances if I wish to help them. "I just bought groceries. I have some fruit in the back I will give you when I drop you off."
"What kind of fruit?" She didn't wait for my answer, spying the tube of medicine for aches and pains that I had just bought for S. "I have a headache."
I didn't realize right away what she was getting at and said something about the pounding sunshine and heat possibly being the cause of her pain.
"You can stop at the bank and get me some money."
"I'm not going by the bank. I turn to go to my house before we go past any ATMs."
"It will only take you two minutes. Just get me 10 euros."
"No, I need to take my daughter home, and the traffic is very bad." I waved my hand at the traffic jam we were currently sitting in and the blocked on-coming lane.
"Just go to the bank. Only two minutes. Please, out of the kindness of your heart."
Smiling, I looked her in the eyes and said, "I'm already giving you a lift out of the kindness of my heart."
That stopped the pleas for money, but then she insisted that I drive her all the way to the train station. I informed her that I had no plans to drive that far out of my way and then have to fight traffic for an additional 30 min when I had a hungry toddler sitting behind me, waiting for Mommy to get her home and feed her lunch. The thing is, I would have gladly taken her as far as the train station had the traffic not been so abominable. It really isn't that far--St Jean is not that big--but getting around in summer is an absolute nightmare, and I admit that I don't like people trying to guilt trip me or tell me what to do. Attitude is everything.
The gypsy began to get very irate with me, her tone leaving no doubt that I would cede to her wishes.
And I firmly repeated that I was about to turn and would then proceed to take her even farther out of her way if she didn't get out of the car at the next intersection.
"Fine, let me out here," she said as if it was her idea all along. She muttered darkly under her breath. Hoping to incite in me a change of heart? Invoking the wrath of gypsy spirits?
She stormed out of the car with nary a goodbye, "give me that fruit," or "thanks again" and marched directly to the kind sir who had let me merge in front of him, never suspecting his consideration was going to open him up to a gypsy's begging.
In the rearview mirror, I watched her plead with him as traffic inched forward. He capitulated and she climbed into his car just as I turned off the main road.
I had a pretty good day, so I guess she didn't curse me after all. That or my willingness to do a good turn trumped any ill will flung my way?
Strange perhaps to make a tag for "gypsies" but I'm sad I can no longer find my entry about the gyspies gifting me with the trout. :-< I'm sure I'll have more gypsy encounters to blog about to make it worth my while. :P