Early one afternoon, I did some shopping at a big box store. I stowed my purchases, put the cart into the corral and a car pulled up. I was on the passenger side, the window was down and the driver asked for help, “Is that the airport there behind us?” I noticed right away that he spoke with a very understandable foreign accent.
“How can you be so close to the airport and not know where it is?” I wondered. “No, it’s not that way, it’s off to the left, straight that way,” I replied and pointed.
He was well dressed, wearing a suit that seemed to be tailored, a tie and a handkerchief in his breast pocket. Seeming a bit agitated, he said something about directions from a woman and winding up here. “So, where is it you need to be?” I asked.
“The passenger terminal.”
“OK,” I said, “here is what you do.”
I gave him directions, and showed him how these directions looked on the map that he had.
“How long is this journey going to take?” he asked.
“Five, maybe ten minutes.”
“Oh … well,” and I saw him relax, “I have to catch a 4:00 flight.”
“That’s at least two and a half hours from now.” “So, where are you going?”
He was going home to England, having been here for a week. He wondered about our unseasonably cool temperatures ( “Yeah, we wonder about that, too; all the time.” ) but said he generally likes the Twin Cities. He was working for a clothing manufacturer, doing prep work for the opening of two stores. As he spoke, he pulled up one of several large paper bags in the passenger foot well, and pointed to the names on the bag. I recognized one of them.
He then looked more focused at me; “What size do you wear?”
I stepped back; “Huh?” “Well, 42.”
He reached into the back, bringing another paper bag forward. “Trying to establish the brand, we give samples to customers all the time.” He showed me a very nice looking leather jacket, outerwear, medium weight. He showed a second one, similar, but zippered. Both are gorgeous, soft, supple black leather. He eyed me as if to see if my body would fit into this jacket. “Another thing, I don’t want to take all these bags on the plane.” He showed a third, much lighter colored jacket, richer looking, with a feminine style. “… an $800 jacket.”
“What?” I resumed listening.
“ … give as a gift, to maybe your wife.”
“You’re going to give me an eight hundred dollar jacket to give my wife? What about mine? What … ?”
“ … and I need some cash to buy gifts for my wife and daughter at the duty-free shop.”
I had missed another segue. “Did he just ask me for money?” I had no idea how the conversation became what it did, or even if it did. “Did you just ask me for money?” my speaking apparatus asked.
“Well, yes; I want to buy those gifts, my credit card is maxed out.”
I managed to ask, “How much?”
“Well … I want to buy those two gifts.”
“He’s giving me a jacket, or two, and hoping for some money so he can buy gifts? I really don’t have enough cash on me.” Feeling kind of bad, I said, “I really don’t have much cash on me.”
I was reeling and didn’t notice that all his ‘sample’ jackets were back where they had come from.
“OK, then, good bye,” he said, backing away.
“Good bye, have a safe trip back,” I called, still feeling a little bad.
Suddenly I was as alone as I was in the beginning. “Did I just miss being scammed?”
The truth, however, is I was not sure what had happened, how the conversation turned from my getting a jacket to my giving him money, and in some ways I wasn’t even sure this had happened at all.
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