Monday, October 12, 2009

Buddy can you spare a dime?

posted Sun, 03 Oct 2004

I do not think I look particularly gullible. So why is that I am always the one the con artists hit?

I was waiting in line at the car wash this afternoon. (Yes, I am too lazy to wash my own car.) It is a gorgeous day, so I had the window down. There were at least four other cars in line, three cars getting gas and an attendant in the store.

Yet the guy comes to my car. He starts the way they always start, “Can I ask you a question?” (Not even “may I.”) I am reading a novel by Jennifer Crusie in which she describes the art of the con. The first thing you do is get the mark to say “yes.” So if someone asks, “Can I ask you a question,” the answer is usually automatically “yes,” which in theory softens the mark up to say “yes” to any subsequent requests.

Then he goes into this long spiel. “My wife and I are from Senatobia (about an hour from here) and we’re stuck and…” he gestures toward a van. I finally recognize what’s happening. Foolish me. I had thought he was going to ask a legitimate question, like “How do I get to the Cathedral from here?” But he was going into way too much detail to be legit.

I cut him off. “If you are going to ask for money, the answer is ‘no.’”

He gave me a look of exaggerated hurt. How could I INSULT him this way? Shaking his head forlornly and muttering something about how a MAN can’t even ask a QUESTION and WHAT is the world COMING to, he walked away.

He did not try to ask his question of anyone else in line. Or of anyone getting gas. Or of anyone in the store. Instead, he got into the van that was “stuck” and drove away.

I saw that “broken-down car” trick last summer. This couple had an old car with the hood up in the parking lot of a big, busy shopping center. When I got out of my car, they approached me. I just rolled my eyes and walked away, not even wanting to hear the story about how they just needed a few dollars to get where they needed to go and they didn’t know anyone in town and there was no one to help. When I emerged from the store ten minutes later, they were gone.

Harpo doesn’t just tell bums “no,” he demands money from them. “Hey, man, willya gimme a dollar?” they whine. He snaps, “You give ME a dollar!”

We were in the parking lot at Autozone a few weeks ago. This guy approaches me, holding 80 cents in his hand. “Willya gimme a dollar bill for this change?” he asked.

I looked at the coins. “That’s only 80 cents,” I told him flatly. Harpo rolled his eyes and snorted.

The beggar’s eyes lit up. He scurried over to the man next to us. That guy wouldn’t even answer the beggar. The beggar returned and told me, “I couldn’t find any more.” His eyes said that he expected me to give him the dollar anyhow. But I am mean. I know where all the soup kitchens are in town (one is two blocks from my house – yay) and I have taken food to them and donated money. This guy was within walking distance of four soup kitchens. He would not go hungry.

Oh, yes, I am such a meanie. How did I ever get into the Peace Corps with such a horrible attitude?

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