How to Lose a Couple of Pounds

Has anyone reading this ever actually made change for a stranger who asks them on the street and it not turn out to be some sort of a con? I ask because once again my basic good nature and in-built gullibility has left me down to the tune of one quid (but up to the tune of one blog entry). I don’t know why I do it, I really don’t. This time at least it was cheerfully and neatly done – guy approaches me as I unlock my bike with a two-pound coin and asks if I’ve got change. I reach into my pocket and find a pound coin and a handful of useless shrapnel. As I’m digging around to see if I’ve got enough five pence pieces to make up the other pound I seem to have somehow given him my quid. He hangs around to see if I’ve got anything more and as I realise my error and ask for my pound back he backs away, grinning widely. Then, in a bit of a twist to the scam that I haven’t encountered before, he pleads with me to take a chunk of hash instead – a couple of spliffs’ worth of what was probably the finest chocolate – and then swears blind he’ll pay me back ‘if I see you around’ (he spoilt this last offer by looking dismayed when I told him I was there every day and then grinning disarmingly at being caught out). By this time I’d written off the pound and was cycling away, feeling a complete idiot, as he bids me farewell with a shouted ‘I owe you one!’. Too right you do, mate. But I don’t think I’ll get it back.

So for those of you like me who still occasionally do favours for their fellow human beings (I lose count of the number of 20ps ‘for the bus’ I’ve given out when I’m drunk enough to let my guard down), beware a grinning black guy with a plausible manner in the Vauxhall station underpass. And for the rest of you – I know, I know, call myself a Londoner, I should never give even the time of day to a stranger without getting a receipt first.

I told you it was going to be a long week.

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6 responses to “How to Lose a Couple of Pounds

  1. Small change nowadays, at least it wasn’t a note.

    Here’s hoping that after your long week you have an enjoyable and relaxing weekend.

  2. Fortunately I am saved from my better nature by never having more than a couple of quid on me at any time…

  3. I think we all get caught out from time to time. The last time I did, I was quite drunk and forgot to be suspicious of the woman wailing ‘will somebody help me!’ outside Waterloo station. A variant on this was on a tube once, when someone was screaming about needing money for painkillers and that the ones they’d be offered in the hospital wouldn’t be strong enough – someone huffed about everyone ignoring him and gave him money, but there was a flaw in that plan – you can only get anadin over the counter, not the strong stuff. I was also myself caught out again my a teenage girl wailing about needing to get home as her boyfriend had split her lip – while I was getting change of my tenner (I gave her 4) I realised I’d been conned, as her split lip was a few days old. I should have whacked her myself. On both these occasions, I’ve figured that at least it says something about me, if not them, that I’m willing to give. Even if I do feel like a twat.

    When you’re giving change, don’t you know to hold it all yourself before giving it across at once?

  4. I know, I know, although I suspect the con had some ramifications to cope with that if I had remembered.

    Maybe I should go round asking people for change and then not conning them on a one-person crusade to restore everyone’s faith in humanity …

  5. No doubt he would have, yes. Perhaps even tried to intimidate you. I reckon to really reinstore faith in humanity you should recreate that urben myth whereby a pissed off train passenger throws the mobile phone of another out the window – preferable someone who has ‘music’ on a loudspeaker.

  6. I’d love to do that (especially the music on loudspeaker phones) but I’d have to smash a window first … maybe flush it down the train toilet?

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