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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Another day in paradise
Yes, that's a Phil Collins reference. Sorry.
Jack Bog was conned while waiting for a bus downtown recently. The guy came at him with a sob story about a stolen truck and the professor handed over a few bucks. I'm sure we've all found ourselves in similar situations in similar places.
I don't work downtown so the number of scam artists I encounter in a given year is, fortunately, limited. The first time I remember this happening, I was walking up Burnside towards Everyday Music on a summer day, must have been eight years ago. A guy wandered up with a gas can and claimed he needed to get to a job interview in Salem. I offered him a dollar and his face suddenly turned to a scowl. "Ah, c'mon, man," he said disdainfully. "You don't look like a racist. Can't you give me another dollar?" Intimidated and caught off guard by this abrupt non sequitur, I broke out another buck.
I still remember the scornful scowl someone shot me from a nearby bus stop for giving the guy money. These days, my heart hardened, I keep walking, only offering a shake of the head when an aggressive panhandler crosses my path. The mere mention of the phrase, "Hey, man" causes me to break into a near run. I've been called names and even followed since I returned home to Portland after college. Still, my all time favorite encounter involving a street scam artist happened outside of a Vegas steakhouse.
I've told this story on the blog a few times over the years. Sometime after graduation, I made the mistake of heading south after quitting a summer job working as a hotel clerk in Yellowstone. With nowhere to be and no desire to immediately return to Portland a failure, I foolishly headed south. Unsurprisingly, my vehicle broke down in the middle of a desert on the Arizona/Nevada border around 11 at night. After dealing with an indifferent mechanic the next day and getting kicked out of the steakhouse for asking to use their pay phone, a hustler came up to me. Supposedly, he'd lost all his cash gambling and was trying to buy a ticket back home. The man was dressed far better than me. I shot back with my own, real sob story and he quickly apologized before heading off down the street.