When Charity Goes Awry

Helping others doesn’t always go the way you plan

Americans and Canadians have a habit of philanthropy when they first move down here. And to their credit, they have done a fantastic job, especially with the humane societies all over Mexico. But charity doesn't always work out as planned. Here's an example.

In back of the marina parking lot lived my friend, the bum. He was a big, hairy man but a gentle person. He washed cars to make money so he could hydrate himself with beer. I guess he only washed cars and not himself, because he smelled. Comes with the territory, I suppose.

Anyways, one day my boss’ wife had gone through the yacht I work on and gathered up a box full of unopened toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, razor blades, etc., and told me to get new ones. I was getting ready to fly back to Orange County, and as I was preparing to leave for the airport I got an idea. Why not give the bum the box of bathroom stuff?

As I walked past the other yachts, my friends started asking me what I was doing with the box. "Giving the bum some stuff to clean up with,” I said. All of a sudden, the other yachts near me had donated more stuff to the effort. When I handed the box to the bum, it was like handing a cave man an iPhone. He just looked at me like "What the hell?”

A week later, I headed back to Cabo. I pulled up to the marina in a taxi and unloaded my things. Out of the corner of my eye I notice some guy washing cars where the bum usually is. Who's the new guy? I found a dock cart and made my way down to the boat. My deck hands were busy pretending to work. Of course, all the cold beer was gone so I worked my way back up the ramp to the little bodega in the alley behind the marina to buy some Modelos. As I start counting out pesos, I noticed that the toiletries section has grown significantly. Then I notice that it's all the stuff I gave the bum.

I pay for the cervezas and work my way down the alley where the bum usually is. I found the new guy taking a cervezas break. Then it dawned on me. The new car wash guy was actually the bum. His hair was nicely cut and his ever-present beard completely gone. He even had on a fairly clean T-shirt and a pair of shorts without holes in them.

I returned to the boat and asked my crew about the status of the bum. They started laughing and couldn't stop. Eventually the truth came to light: The bum obviously traded the items I gave him to the little bodega. But instead of trading for beer, he traded up to tequila. After that, he went loco and the police came and arrested him. They had to burn his clothes and shave him because he had lice.

I told my boss this story. He thought about it and then told me the next time, we provision the boat to purchase an entire case of shampoo, conditioner, tooth paste, etc. I asked why. He said that he never wanted the bum to be thirsty.