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.