So I went to Lowe’s for some bags of mulch, 2 plants and a small trellis. The problem started when I was loading the mulch in my car.

I had just got the last of 4 very large, cumbersome, heavy bags in the trunk when a tall, thin, elderly black man walked up, carrying a grocery bag and wearing a UNC jersey. He asked if he could help me (now that the heavy bags were put away), and my cell phone rang. It was my dog’s vet calling about some tests she’d had done so I could not deal with this homeless man.

I pulled the rest of my things (I thought) off the cart and tried to talk to the veterinarian. This man kept hovering. I was parked some distance from the store and no other cars were around. I tried to gesture to this man that I was ok, he did not need to help, and listen to this important call at the same time. Normally this is not difficult for me but it is 101 degrees today. Hard to focus.

So the homeless guy starts dragging the cart to put it in the rack which I thought was nice so I gave him a $5 bill, not noticing what he had in his hands. He left, I got in my car, finished the call and drove home.

Unloading the car I noticed it– no trellis. Oh! I must have left it on the cart, so I got back in the car to get it thinking I was so remote nobody would see it before I got there. Along the way I recalled I did take the trellis off the cart and lean it against my car, but didn’t remember seeing it as I left.

I got to Lowe’s, no trellis. I asked the gardening service managers if anyone brought one in they’d found. No. I told them about my encounter. OH, they said. This guy and another man works the parking lot, they live in some woods nearby. Their racket is to try to help customers, sneak whatever they can off the cart and bring it to the store for a refund!

I felt awful, like I’ve been part of a scam. They said to not worry but be careful.

After 30 years of living on my own I thought I WAS careful!

Apparently not.

So I bought another $5 trellis and came home. Five seems significant for me for some reason today.