It was Friday night and I wandered out around my house to look for a recipient. I don’t recall exactly what time it was, but if I had to guess I would say it was around 10:30pm.
I walked over to Dupont Circle. I have probably given my $10 away at this location over 50 times. I was trying to think how I could differentiate this experience from the other 50+ times. I walked around but just didn’t see anyone that struck me. I left the circle and started heading northwest on Massachusetts Avenue. I spotted a PNC bank on my right where a young woman was withdrawing money from the ATM.
I thought to myself. She obviously needs some money, she’s at the ATM, right? Also, I thought it would somewhat of a challenge to approach someone using an ATM late at night.
Keeping about 10 feet between us, I waited until Molly finished putting away her cash and called out to her. I could tell that she felt a little threatened. “I’m not interested,” she said as she started to walk away. I asked her to just hear me out. Still keeping my distance, I gave her my pitch and tried to win her confidence. If I were in her shoes, I don’t know if I would have stopped to talk to a stranger who just saw me get money from an ATM machine late at night.
Molly told me that she just got off work from nearby Sweet Green. “I drive the Sweet Flow Mobile that goes around town,” she told me with a slight grin. Although she has only been doing this for nine months, Sweet Green has been in business since about 2007. I have eaten there. Salads and yogurt are both pretty good.
I asked her if I could ask her a few questions to which she responded, “Can I smoke a cigarette?” It’s a free world I thought, so go ahead. “I was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland,” she told me as she put the cigarette to her lips and lit it. She is in college studying history with a special interest in Jewish studies and the holocaust.
She told me about a backpacking trip she took across Europe and how she is planning to backpack through Asia next summer. She even traveled to Morocco with her Quaker High School.
She has an older brother who lives in London and her father is a highly regarded reporter for the Washington Post. She shared a story about a time when her father was on the Jon Stewart show and she got to go with him to the studio. I actually watched one of the clips online and found it pretty interesting.
We walked around the building where we met and she showed me the Sweet Flow Mobile that she drives around. Check out her special invitation for Barack Obama.
I asked her what she was going to do with th $10. “I’ll probably get a pack of cigarettes,” she told me. I explained that she would be the sixth person to use the money for cigarettes. My mother was a smoker for many years and died of heart disease at a fairly young age. That on top of the fact that I think it is kind of a disgusting habit always makes me cringe a little internally when someone chooses to buy cigarettes with the money. But that is her prerogative. She shrugged her shoulders and said that one day she hopes to quit, but not right now. Molly shared that her parents had actually offered her $500 to quit. “I said no,” the 20-year-old told me, “Today, there is no amount of money that would make me quit.” Wow, for anyone who thinks it’s easy to quit smoking, that statement should tell you something.
Before leaving I asked her where people can find the Sweet Flow Mobile. “We’re never at the same place two days in a row, but people can check out the schedule online to find us!” I said goodbye and wished her luck getting President Obama to visit her.