Hey, how you all doin' this evening? Say, I gotta ask you something. You got a second? Come over here. Come on over, I ain't gonna hurt you. Okay, I'll come over there.

Look, I was just wonderin' if y'all could help me out. Y'all look like you're havin' a good time, and I don't want to be intrudin' or anything like that, but I'm in a real situation here. See, the problem is, I'm out of gas. I was tryin' to get to Detroit. I just came off the highway. In fact, my baby's in the car over there. We're just trying to get to Detroit, and we ran out of gas and we just need a buck-fifty to fill it up. We got eight dollars. We just a little short.

Okay, okay, I see. That's no problem. It's just that we're a little short and just need a dollar-fifty. Yeah, see, we're lookin' to catch a bus to Detroit. The bus ticket's 35 dollars. We got $33.50. We just need another buck-fifty to get the ticket. What do you say you help us out a little bit?

Look, we need a new engine. It's gonna cost my baby 'n' me 545 dollars. We got $543.50. We just need another dollar-fifty so we can pay the man, get the engine installed and get on our way to Detroit. No problem.

I know times are tough all over the U.S. of A. Shit, I'm tryin' real hard to pick myself up. You gotta have a little sympathy for a brother. No? Not tonight? Say, that's cool. I understand. Okay, well, you have yourself a real good evening, you hear? God bless you. Uh-huh.

Say, wait up. Check this out. Do you know anybody needs a fan? I got one of them big square plug-'em-in type fans right over there around the corner—just, like, a block or maybe three blocks up Third Street. I could let you have it real cheap. I'll give it to you for a buck-fifty. You want to go look at it right now? It's just over behind Taco Grande. It's with some of my other belongings. I keep some stuff over there. You sure you don't want it? Okay, 'cause I'm just sayin'. It's a good fan.

Tell you what. I got something else for you. This here's a gift. I ain't asking for nothing for this. You don't owe me shit, you understand? It's a cassette type of tape. Here, let me get it out for you. Now, it's a little mussed up on the outside, but that's just 'cause it got played so much. It's real good. It's... Let me see here, it's kinda rubbed off... Creedence Clearance Rev—and this here's their greatest hits, it says. Here, you all can take that with you. That's a gift from me to you. No strings attached.

So, do you think you'll be able to spare a dollar-fifty today? Damn, I mean, it's gettin' cold and shit out here and I got to get my ass back to Detroit, 'cause I'm too damned old to be this freakin' cold, you hear what I'm saying? Shit.

Hey, you don't have to be gettin' an attitude with me, brother. Just go on, then. I ain't looking for no trouble. I'm just tryin' to talk all friendly with you and all of a sudden you got this attitude all up in my face. Who you think you are, President of the United States? Well, I don't think so, 'cause I don't see no Secret Service or no limousines or shit all up in here.

Go on, just walk down the street. I don't need this shit, you getting an attitude all up in my face.

Hey, you. Yeah, you, in the brown coat. Come on over here. I just take a second. I gotta ask you somethin'. Come over here! Okay, I'll come over there.

Mr. Barnett's column, I Need A Buck-Fifty To Get To Detroit, is syndicated by Reuters News Service and appears weekly in 265 newspapers across the country.