I am usually the sort of person that is suspicious of everyone. I trust only a few, rarely pause if a stranger stops me in the street, and discourage random conversation. This is probably a general malaise everyone suffers from when living in a big city, but little personal safety checks like these are a wise idea when moving around town on your own and after dark. However I fell for the biggest trick in the book yesterday, and now feel really stupid.
It was dark, and as I got off my train a woman stopped me. She was dressed nicely and didn’t look like a beggar. I thought she wanted to ask directions, so paused. She told me she stopped me ‘because I looked nice’ – this should have sent a warning bell through my mind. She told me that her boyfriend was supposed to pick her up but he had to work and now she was stranded with no money and needed to get a bus.
Even though my warning bell was now clanging loud and clear, I couldn’t help but wonder what if it was true, and how horrible it feels to be stuck far from home. But I am stupid as well, because I asked her how short she was of the bus fare and she said £2.50 – all bus fares are £2. But did I pause? No, I didn’t even think of that anomaly, I just gave her what I had - £2. She thanked me and we parted.
A little way down the road I stopped. How silly! I had a travel card that was about to run out, and wasn’t going to use it that evening. I could give her that and then she could get anywhere she wanted to go. So I turned back.
I found her walking up the road, away from the bus stop she needed. She looked worried that I had caught up with her. I told her about the travel card and she laughed nervously and said no it was fine as her work would give her back the money for the journey… she then quickly ran off up the road as I am sure she realised from my face that what she said was bollocks. I watched her go – she disappeared down a side road, nowhere near the bus station. And then I walked home.
The sad thing is, next time someone asks I will not stop. I will not give them anything as I will not trust they are telling the truth. This is what these people don’t realise – they erode people’s kindness, and that sort of thing is bloody priceless and costs far more than £2.