Wednesday, November 05, 2014

scrod on the wharf: a life lesson or two

Returned from trip to NOLA; wonderful place.
Learned something that I'd like to share:

If you're in a tourist location like the waterfront in front of the Cathedral, just wandering like an idiot tourist, and someone smiling approaches you, and starts a conversation like the following, or some variant:

"What would you say if I could tell you where you were born?"
"And what would you say if I could tell you where you were standing a year ago?"
"....  "

Your immediate reaction should be to quickly step back out of reach and yell at the top of your voice "STAY AWAY FROM MY SHOES!"  - yell it several times.  "PLEASE GET AWAY FROM ME!".

If you don't, the con continues engaging you, smiling, with some answers:
"From your mother's belly, is where you were born"
"Standing on top of your feet, that's where you were standing a year ago."
Okay, entertaining enough to put you off your guard?  Watch out for what happens next.

If this "short con" person is able to stay close to you, and continue to talk, eventually when you are not paying attention, this is likely what will happen next:  they (he or she) will lean down (away from where you can see) as if picking up something from the ground.   You will discover that your shoes are covered with a glop of gooey material.   WTH ?

There is an offer to wipe it off, "Come here, I'll get it off" and what ends up happening is the goop is spread over your shoes (lesson 2: don't wear your good shoes when you go about as a tourist) and eventually wiped off with a rag.

Finally the con is finished off with:
"You're not going to walk away without paying for your shoe-shine, are you, Mister ?"
"Just $20"
"Well for you, $10, I have change."

So yours truly got away with a $10 lesson in getting con'd, or in the New England vernacular, scrod on the wharf in NOLA.  And some weird goop on my shoes.  This can of course happen anywhere, at least at mid-day among many others it can be escaped with some cash losses, and without bodily harm.   I got away cheap, considering.

scam 2:
This one is actually more emotionally scarring, for very different reasons:
1. kid walks up to where you are sitting.
2. kid starts to dance, very fancy quick footwork,
3. adult stands behind him, obviously in charge, no particular emotion showing
4. kid finishes dancing, and yells out "Hey gimme a buck !  One buck, man!"

In hindsight one possible thing could have been, to get up, dance some yourself for the kid, and reply "you dance for me, I'll dance for you" -  "thanks and have a great day".    But only in hindsight.

What was stunning was the boldness of the pair, imposing their "entertainment" on a seated tourist, and the fact that a child, maybe 7 or 8 years old, was in the scam.   At that age, it's hard to imagine this is a consenting or willing participant, or that the dollar or any portion went to the child.  To accuse a local of child abuse on the street of a city you don't know, and without law enforcement nearby, can be not only fruitless but potentially dangerous.  

Daytime, in the tourist laden streets, there was an interesting massed presence of state troopers.  But late evening, a fistfight can be starting outside a bar on Decatur Avenue, with no law enforcement anywhere nearby.

Scamming tourists happens every day.  I'm happy my pocket was not picked, or suffered greater financial losses.  Maybe one thing to do is to carry a decoy wallet that only has a few dollars in it, while your real wallet with the rest of your money is safely tucked in the belt under your shirt and coat.