As I neared Union Square, in the middle of an intersection, I was approached by a slight (read shorter than 5′ tall) tranny holding a drooping cigarette that appeared to have originated from a gutter. Head adorned with a bandana, eye makeup smeared, s/he asked “Do you have 4 quarters for a dollar?”
Me: No I need my quarters for the bus.
S/him: I have the quarters, I need a dollar.
Me: You want a dollar bill?
S/him: yes I’m trying to get to a shelter for homeless men in Berkeley on BART. (I avoid smiling.)
Me: Bart takes quarters.
S/him: It wasn’t working.
It was then I knew I’d encountered the great white whale. Ten years ago on the very same street, I’d learned my lesson: A guy who actually stopped me in an intersection as well, perhaps to catch me off guard, asked for money to get to his med school classes at Berkeley on BART. Despite the fact that know Berkeley has no med school and that we were at least 5 blocks from BART, I gave him money. I shouted “BART’s the other way!” He gave me a dirty look.
It was then I vowed not to give money to “normal” looking people. Actually that’s not true. I vowed that after a Dead Head said he needed 50 cents to call his parents, and when I said I only had a dollar he pulled out a handful of money and said “I have change.” He had the gall to be miffed when I told him where he could go.
Despite the fact that my new mini-con did not fit the “normal” bill I simply smiled and said sorry. Because here we were, 5 blocks away from BART.
As I kept walking, I decided to consider the elements of an effective short con:
- Believability – Be near BART if you’re coming up with such a story. Much like the people whose “car ran out of gas” you need to think of such details – at least for people like me who’ve been approached so many times.
- Consistency – When the guy/gal switched to “Oh I have the quarters.” I admit I did kind of get confused but I started to get suspicious at that point.
- There’s got to be another one. What would you say?