I met myself a con artist last night. A real live, con artist. Can you believe it? If you are like me, you’d like to think you live in a world where everyone is good and they have nothing but good intentions. Much to my chagrin it turns out it ain’t so.
But this wasn’t just any kind of con artist. This was a guy that used Catholicism as his gimmick and while I am not a flag waving Catholic, I took a very strong offense to it. He allegedly came to town to offer his professional services as a track consultant to a local, as he put it, “inner city” school, as his almsgiving for lent. I knew this because for whatever reason, I wanted to hear his story. A person at the crossroads in their life, wanting to give back for the sake of giving back, not because it was fashionable. Sure, you can have my ear.
He was pushy about his cause. Like the people that carry the giant crosses down Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras Day declaring to us that if we don’t repent we’re all going to hell. “I just want to inspire people to give back. If we are capable it is our duty as human beings to give back to our fellow man.”
Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the fact that every time I asked him why he chose this particular school, he danced around the question with an answer that didn’t make sense. One of which included something about dating a girl that was the Homecoming Queen at a high school in St. Petersburg, Florida. Another because he could park his boat in Mobile Bay. Huh?
It wasn’t until his credit card declined, that my defense mechanisms were fully activated. There I was, witness to the uncomfortable moment when he didn’t have any cash, and I realized I had a potential flake in my presence. A guy that I helped drag into one of my favorite local establishments where he played the song, and danced the dance of how they drink in Europe (me being mocked for not ever having been there). A shot of whiskey and a beer chaser. ‘That’s how they do it, don’cha know?”. The bartender obliged with the requested not-so-fancy glass. Ugh. There was no way in hell I was going to let my friend(s) pay the price of the con of which I finally realized might not be in town to “offer his professional services” as his penance for Lent.
“WOW. Turns out I owe you twenty bucks.”
“No,” I replied. “Take that twenty dollars worth of alcohol and work extra hard helping the kids at the local school.” (I don’t tell you this to paint the picture of a martyr. Just the picture of how it happened.)
“I’d need more than $20 to work harder than what I’m working now! Those kids are mean and don’t respect me! They don’t care that I’m there helping them!” said the guy that suggested we all help our fellow man if we are capable.
I was, well, a little taken aback by his arrogance. Because from what I know, and from the foundation of what was laid earlier, he wasn’t here for the accolades. He was simply here to help those that needed to be helped. So I called him on it.
“Wait a second. I thought you were here to offer your services as part of your desire to give back to the community. That doesn’t sound like the case anymore.”
“I lied, ok?” he said. “I lied. I told you all those things because you seem like a rich girl from the South and from what I know you are more than likely prejudice. I didn’t know how to get you to understand in any other way. Those kids don’t care about me or what I am doing for them. I worked with an Olympic coach for 18 months! Those kids don’t know how lucky they are!”
I’ll stop there with the details, but you can imagine how, well, dumbfounded I was.
“Fine. You are here building your resume. When you get the $20, just bring it here to the boys at the bar and let them know why you are bringing it. They’ll let me know. If you choose not to, well, you have to live with that. Not me.”
The charades continued with the rest of the bar patrons, including AE. He insisted that she play him in a game of pool. What he didn’t know was that AE funded her college bar tab by hustling people at pool. This was going to be good, I thought. By now, I was angry. After firing the warning shots that we had a con on our hands, I walked over to observe the game.
“Fifty dollars says I’ll come back and win this game,” he declared. I offered my two cents by questioning, “Do you even have $50. Not like me, I know, but again, I was up in arms and well, let’s go ahead and face it, tipsey. Ten foot tall and bullet proof or something like that. Apparently my question was inappropriate and he shot me a look of disdain.
I learned later he asked AE if she had a charity of choice. He suggested that she donate money to the Inner City Track Fund and that she give him the money right then…might as well have been The Human Fund. He’d see that it got to where it needed to go. Uh-huh.
But it was the mocking dance, and the playing of the air guitar with his pool cue that pushed me over the edge. Again, not like me, but I posed another question: “Do you really think it’s cool to be acting like that after having effed up the whole bar tab thing?” That’s when AE decided it was best to end the game early. Back up arrived in the form of a girl holding a cue as if it were a weapon and a bold woman that suggested perhaps the “Funny Guy” leave.
He didn’t understand why the once hospitable group turned on him. Turns out, people don’t like it when you use religion as a veil to cover up your scam. And they damn sure don’t like it when you disrespect the regulars of a bar.