Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I got called a bitch last night

I'm not a sucker, and I'm not an softie, but I've fallen for the occasional hustle now and then. Usually you can spot a hustler from a mile away, looking for a mark with darting eyes. But last year some time, I was on the E2 bus across DC when a dear old woman asked me about my guitar.

"Are you a musician?" she asked, telling me how she loved music. She proceeded to say she was mortified to be riding the bus, feeling like a beggar asking people for the fare. She said she was a lawyer, and had locked her keys in the trunk of her BMW at work. Could I spare $5 for the metro fare at the end of the bus line?

She was smartly dressed, looked me in the eye, and wasn't asking for a huge sum by any means. So I said sure, and as soon as I opened my wallet, I saw her lean over the seat railing and ogle all the cash money and prizes I had in there.

"It'd be $30 for a cab..."

At this point, the rational mind says, "She just got a look and upped the ante." The compassionate side says, "Give her the benefit of the doubt. You don't want this old woman to have to take the metro too." So I gave her what I could without change, which was two $20s.

"God bless you," she said, "I'll pay you back, just give me your phone number and I'll call you as soon as I get home." She didn't have a pen, but she assured me she had a "good head" for numbers, and she'd remember it. At that point, I knew I'd been hustled. She put her head down like she was taking a leisurely nap and stared at the ground. I think she even kissed me on the cheek when she got off the bus.

Last night I might've had the odd click in my head when I saw the tiny figure of a woman like her at Safeway. It didn't register, though, until my lady and I stepped outside to leave.

"Do you know anything about electronic locks?" this slight old woman asked. We told her, we're sorry, we don't, and she launched into a precise story about how she locked her keys in her trunk. And she got aggressive quickly, saying that nobody offers assistance... "I don't mean you, of course." I told her that AAA can unlock the door for her, and she shot back angry that they couldn't with her model of BMW, because the jimmy would sever some important part in the door. Wow, grandma knows her beamers.

At this point, I knew the hustle and I was vaguely recollecting that this may even be the same woman. She made some generalizations about how shallow men were and didn't know anything. As she introduced herself and tried to get cozy with us, I cut off the conversation and said, "well, good luck ma'am."

"Good luck isn't gonna help me! Did you offer any assistance at all?" She was pissed at this point. I knew why.

"No, we didn't."

"That's right! You didn't offer any help. Bitch."

We paused and looked back at her.

"That's right, I called him a bitch." Her aggression confirmed the hustle. I had to call her on it.

"Ma'am, I believe we've met before." She started to move.

"No we haven't! All black people don't look alike, white boy! And I'll beat your fuckin' head in with these cans wah wah wah..."

Yikes. Turns out my roommate has met her on the same E2 bus, and even asked her for a job -- she went so far as to give him an email address, which, curiously, she didn't respond to. But she did ask him for $5, told him she was a lawyer who'd locked her keys in the trunk of her beamer.

At this point, I'm pretty sure I'll run into her again. I'll just act so happy to see her. And ask for my $40 back.

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