Conned, Man.

It was all going so well.

My trip away to Dallas, Texas for Wrestlemania 32, followed by 5 days of pure Dallas exploration and fun, had been a great trip. The wrestling was amazing, the atmosphere electric – despite the unfortunate, dangerously overcrowded, queues that led us to being stuck outside the AT&T Stadium in searing heat for over 4 hours, missing the first hour and a half of the event, including the pre show/intro to Mania/national anthem, as well as the first portion of the first match – and Dallas had proven to be a welcoming city with plenty to see in the remaining time we had.

Last year, I chronicled my Vancouver vacation with a daily round up. I didn’t do that this year, primarily because I’d forgotten to bring my wireless keyboard and I hate using the iPad keyboard for blogging. Also the WordPress app seriously lacks compared to their web build.

I was going to reminisce and roundup our Texas vacation here when I got back, uploading fun photos and experiences to share on Write Steve Write, recounting all the good times we had for those interested (note: I still may do, if anybody wants to see our snaps!)

What a shame then, that in the last few hours of being the USA, Thea and I fell victim to a con man LITERALLY on the Dartline (think metro system) to Dallas Fort Worth airport.

That’s right. On the way home, en route to the airport, in a momentary lapse of tired judgement that is totally out of character for the both of us, we allowed ourselves to be conned out of $35.

The money itself isn’t the issue for me, per se. Don’t get me wrong, it IS an issue, but it’s more the situation. More the fact that I like to think I’m not a stupid or easily manipulated individual, yet here I am having been well and truly Jedi mind tricked.

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It sucks, and the more I think about it the more it eats me up, despite advice from my parents and Thea to let it go. Don’t let it ruin the vacation and all the time we spent there, all the things we saw together. Let it just be life experience. Unfortunate, stupid, messy life experience.

And I will. I’ll get over it. But first I need to deconstruct it. I need to understand how, and why it happened.

So…how did it happen?

I’ve been able to think over it, thanks to the many late hours I now call my friends (I met them through another friend called Jetlag. It was a total meet cute moment), ticking over the incident to understand the methods used and comprehend exactly how I was duped.

It’s not been too fun, what with the lack of sleep and inability to calm my mind, made worse by pondering upon a situation that’s out of my control, in the past, and yet still at the forefront of my mind.

It all started with a flipped script.

“Do you have any change?” would normally lead to an inevitable dialogue option (if my life were a classic Lucasarts adventure game, that is. Or Mass Effect), it would prompt a “No” as, usually, I don’t.

But the question that “John”, a somewhat bedraggled, toothless, greying on top and rough around the edges, man asked on the DART Line that fateful journey was different. Thus began a 20+ minute conversation where he buttered me up so good if you were to try and grab me I would simply slip through your fingers, and included tidbits such as:

“You guys are such a beautiful couple.”

“You’re awesome, man.”

“Man, I’m SO glad I met you.”

“I tell you what, you guys have made my day.”

So on, and so on.

This was interspersed with conversation pieces that prompted me for information, and if it’s one thing the average person likes to talk about, it’s themselves.

He asked; I answered.

It reminds me of that scene from Now You See Me, where they integrate Michael Caine’s character for important information without him even realising it.

He catered the conversation to me and the things I liked. We spoke about travelling, and food; we talked about Wrestlemania and the Funks/Von Erich’s legendary feuds. We even spoke about the Philippines (I’m half Filipino, don’t forget!) and how he was stationed there during the war.

He sculpted a version of himself that I would find likeable, despite his threadbare jumper that looked slightly too big for him.

He claimed to work for American Airlines as a baggage handler, so, taking him at face value and not judging a book by its cover (because I try not to do that), I believed him. After all, I reasoned, you don’t need to pass ‘x’ amount of presentation rules in order to handle baggage. Right?

And then he flipped the script.

“Do you have change for a 50?”

Well, “John”, you’re not asking for change, and we’ve had such a pleasant exchange. Why don’t I  blithely have a look?

And so I looked in my wallet, and I asked Thea.

“Do you have change for a 50? You guys are so cool, I wanna buy you guys lunch, man.”

“You don’t need to buy as lunch,” would have been a totally acceptable response.

It’s one I didn’t use.

We didn’t have change for a 50, but that didn’t stop him.

(This next bit has a bit of paraphrasing because, honestly, it all happened at a machine gun pace to cause the confusion he relied on)

“Yeah, that’s okay. I’ve got $100 in my car. I need to get off at ‘x’ station in order to get it. I’ll drive to the Airport to meet you, break the $100 and give you back the change, okay. I’ll buy you lunch, no problem. What I’ll do, I’ll leave my jacket with you and you can return it to me by the coffee shop at Terminal D, okay?”

YEAH, OKAY!

Notice how none of his statements tie together. They don’t make sense. Buy us lunch, but needs to break a $100, so he needs change from us in order to do so? Wait…WHAT?!

But that, of course, was his intention.

With a bemused, doofus smile on my face I agreed to this whilst Thea tried to listen in with a concerned, confused frown on her face. Of course we can trust this guy, sweets, we’ve just been talking about American politics, he likes Obama, will be voting for Hilary Clinton, AND we’ve been speaking at length about wrestling. He’s leaving his jacket. OBVIOUSLY WE CAN TRUST HIM, said the idiot.

We amassed $40 between us, he handed $5 back – because he’s a great guy like that – and got robbed with confused smiles plastered on our faces.

The entire event was slick, charming, and confusing. I’ve never been conned before, but even I know from my over indulgent diet of pop culture that handing back change, coupled with the ‘collateral’ of the jacket itself, is classic.

We took his jacket, because at the time I still had a shred of faith in humanity and wanted to believe we weren’t being ripped off. This despite two cops entering the carriage AFTER “John” had left it. Thea and I witnessed them conversing with him on the platform as the doors were closing – too late to jump off and confront him over anything. All we could do was watch as we sped away from them and our $35 as a haze lifted and uncomfortable reality began to settle.

We got off at the next station and attempted to use the DART Line Assistance…communication pole…thing. There was no security, no police, no one to actually TALK to at any station, which was helpful. The Assistance pole only infuriated me further, with unhelpful ‘Press One for…’ options that rattled off at a snails pace. Eventually we were patched through to the Police who told us, in no uncertain terms after a heavy, pregnant pause:

“This…isn’t a police matter, sir.”

The wait for the next DART Line train was one of the longest I’ve ever had to deal with. We arrived at the airport, “John’s” jacket in hand, hopeful that he would be there to restore my faith in humanity. He wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t there.

At that point I realised I now had to hand in a “found” jacket to DFW security. A jacket that wasn’t mine. Thanks, “John”, you fucking dick.

The flight home was one of the longest I’ve ever had, given the 9 hours of limited movement and broken sleep.

A few days have passed since it happened, and I’ve been able to take the step back that was needed to understand and accept it, helped by my kind, understanding girlfriend, as well as some sound advice from my BJJ team mates and coaches.

My wrestling coach highlighted that it’s not about being “intelligent” or “gullible”. It’s about “John” praying on another persons humanity whilst, at the same time, confusing the shit out of them. Breaking it down like that helped to soften the blow, but I still feel like I let myself down. More importantly, I feel like a let Thea down. We’re a tag team, ultimately, and I was a weak link. She needed the hot tag and I wasn’t there to take it.

Thank God she’s so strong and positive to help balance me out. Forgiving, too. Yeah, that too! She hasn’t made me feel bad about it or guilt tripped me over what happened, despite how worried she was whilst it was happening, and I love her for it.

So well done, “John”, you conned a writer, which means two things:

  1. You’ve given me some precious life experience
  2. You’ve provided insight into something I’d only ever previously experienced through movies/TV shows/books, which means you’ve given me something I can use.

So thanks, “John”, you may have broken the tenement of “Don’t Be A Dick”, but I think, overall, you’ve given me something to work with here.

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