Recent Con Artist Encounters

Smithsonian Metro, weekend afternoon
Guy in wheelchair, late middle age, long graying hair tied back, carrying a green ID with the word “guest” on it. Rolls up to me, showing the “guest” ID. “Excuse me, sir, my daughter and I are Katrina refugees and we need some help.” I tell him no, sorry, and he goes on to someone else.

Union Station Metro, Monday morning
“Hey man, change these to a twenty?” guy holds out a fistful of fives. Being too nice, and without pausing to wonder why a guy would want to change to a bigger bill, I hand him a loose twenty. He gives me the fives. There are, of course, only three bills. “Hey, hey,” I say loudly. He still holds the twenty in his hand, and I quickly grab it back and give him back his fives. “Dude, nice try,” I say with a smirk.

Mr. Fifteen sighs and grins back, “This town’s changed, man,” he says. “But I can tell you’re from around here.” Whatever that means.

Pentagon City Metro, weekend afternoon
It’s Katrina Refugee Wheelchair guy again. He passes by me, but instead of launching into the expected “my daughter and I are refugees” spiel, he simply says, “Can I have a dollar to get something to eat?” Pleased by this simple honesty, I give him a dollar.

Waterfront area near Safeway, weekday night
White guy, early 20s, spiky hair and earring, walks with a bit of swagger. “Excuse me, sir, I need some help. I’m from around here,” he points at a building behind the Safeway which I thought was abandoned, “and my Dad’s in Columbia, Maryland, and I just found out he’s very sick and might be dying. I’m out of cash but I need $20 to get on a bus to see him. Can you help out?”

I pause for a bit, smile, and say, “No.” Then I keep walking.

NO?” he yells after me. You’d think he’d never been brushed off by a mark before. “Whaddaya mean ‘NO?!'”

“What, do I look like a tourist or something?” I toss back over my shoulder as I head for the Metro.

“Well, that’s real nice,” he calls from across the street. “GOD BLESS YOU, MAN.”

Same area, six months later
The same kid comes up to me in front of Safeway, this time carrying what looks like an empty gas can. “Excuse me, sir,” he starts, “I’m out of gas and I forgot my wallet, do you think you could-”

“Hi there!” I cry out to him, real friendly-like, “hey, how’s your Dad?”

“My…huh? Oh, my Dad, he’s uh-”

“Nice prop! A gas can! No, I’m not giving you anything!” But by now he is heading off to find another mark.

Capitol South Metro, Saturday morning
“I need some help, sir,” says the guy pacing the platform, “I just locked myself out of my car, and I need twenty dollars to-”


“Aw c’mon man-”


Union Station Metro, Monday afternoon

Guy pushing EIR in my face. “Want to help impeach Cheney and overthrow the British monarchy’s worldwide drug cartel?”

“Hey wow, so LaRouche is out of jail now?”

“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet just because you can google LaRouche, man! I can google for brain surgery and find stuff, man! Haw haw haw!” (He seriously said that, then made a very fake sounding laugh.)

“No fascist demagoguery for me, please. Enjoy the cult.”

“LaRouche is the new FDR! Economic disaster is coming! Impeach Cheney and stop Gore’s global warming scam!” (Okay, he didn’t really say all that, it’s just the standard slogans sung or yelled from their card table shrines.)

Farragut North Metro, yesterday
It’s Katrina Refugee Wheelchair guy again. I recognize him but apparently he doesn’t recognize me. The spiel begins, “Sir, me and my daughter are Katrina refugees and we’ve been living in a FEMA trailer-”

“You’re still refugees?”

“Well, you know-”

“No. Play your grift elsewhere. Why are you at Farragut North, anyway? There are hardly any gullible tourists here.”

Katrina Refugee Wheelchair guy makes a face, then rolls off to some other mark.

(Someone out there, please tell me, am I being too mean? Somehow, I doubt a Katrina refugee with a daughter would insist on living around one of the most expensive cities in America, even to panhandle, so I lean more towards thinking of this guy as a fraudster.)

Seriously, I don’t know why I keep getting these guys. Are there just that many in DC, or do I just look like a real rube and an ideal mark? Thank goodness I watch LOST.

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs

Roving Asian mendicant, can occasionally be seen wandering the streets of downtown Washington, muttering unintelligible gibberish to passers-by while pushing a “bag lady” shopping cart full of old blankets, American flags, soda cans, and healthy secondhand snacks from organic food shop dumpsters. Used to live in a cardboard box at 16th and K but the rent was too expensive.

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