A young man who reminded me of a confidence trickster I knew (who is now serving time at His Majesty’s pleasure) approached me today on Lambton Quay.
‘I wonder if you could help me,’ he said. ‘I’ve just had my 25th birthday but woke up with all my stuff gone. I live in the Wairarapa and I’ve been walking around for eight and a half hours. I just want to go back and see my daughter.’
That’s a lot to hit someone in a few seconds, but my instinct was to find a way to help him, despite my wanting to meet my other half as I was holding some of her things, having dropped her off a few moments earlier while I looked for a car park.
I explained this to the young man—and wished him happy birthday—but said I could return this way. And I didn’t carry any cash. I offered to find a way to get him home.
‘The fare is $20 back to the Wairarapa.’
‘I’ll tell you what. I have to meet my missus but if you wait here, I’ll drive you to the station and buy you the ticket myself.’
‘Could you not get $20 out of an ATM? If you give me $20 and your account details, and I’ll give you $50 when I get back. I’ve got lots of money.’
This is when alarm bells ring, because I’ve seen those episodes of Hustle. And then everything else became implausible.
Obviously if he was out of town for his birthday, he would have friends. Real friends.
There’s no way that in Wellington you can wander around for eight hours with no one rendering you assistance.
Whomever is looking after his daughter would have already called the police. He could have just walked into a station and explained what happened.
And no, I wasn’t going to go to an ATM. ‘I don’t want $50. I’m old school, I’ve barely used those. Let me just get you the ticket and get you on the train.’
‘How will you pay for it if you don’t use ATMs?’
‘Credit card. I can get you the ticket. Let’s go to the station.’
‘Nah, I’ve troubled you enough.’
Couldn’t he do the flop instead? As far as short cons go, that wasn’t very good.
But also a sad indictment on all of us that we’ve let society come to this, where a young man falls through the cracks and feels he has to con.