I'm sure most of you can see where this is going. I was young and nice and stupid. I lent him the hundred dollars. He gave me his name -- Brad Jacobson -- and the number where he worked, at the University of Toronto. He asked me if I liked homemade wine. Naturally, when I called the number a few days later the person at the switchboard immediately sounded weary and annoyed and said that no one named Brad Jacobson worked there.
Why didn't I go with him to the car to wait for the locksmith, or at least look out the store front window, since presumably he was parked nearby? Why didn't I ask him why he couldn't just pay the locksmith after he unlocked the trunk? Why didn't I just say, sorry buddy, not my problem? Because I am a people pleaser. I hate saying no to people, even people I've just met. Anyone with half a brain would have considered his story and found half-a-dozen weak points. But if I'd done that, it might have hurt his feelings. He might have thought I was unkind. He might have left not liking me. Since I was never going to see him again, you could be forgiven for wondering why the heck that matters to me, but apparently it does.
Not only is this not the only time I've ever been a number one resource for criminals -- it's not even the only time at that bookstore. A couple of teenage boys came in one afternoon, hung around in the back near the New Age books for a while. As they were getting ready to leave, one of them asked how late we were open. I said we closed at six, and he looked at his buddy and said "We've got lots of time". Turns out he meant they had lots of time to use the credit cards in my wallet which they had just stolen from the back room before I went to take the subway home and realized it was gone.
At least that time it was just stupidity on my part (I should have put my bag downstairs). I really really hate the idea of this 'Brad Jacobson' ass feeling smug and superior because he put one over on me. Don't you think there must be a special place in hell reserved for people like that? Because of him, I've never again been able to think about helping a stranger in distress without first wondering if they're just running a scam, if I even consider helping them at all.
Last summer while my husband was away, a young Israeli girl came to the door with some paintings. She said she was an art student that was trying to make money to keep on with her education by selling paintings she and her classmates had painted. I have tried and tried to strike the perfect tone with door-to-door salespeople or solicitors; if it's your job and you have to do it, I'm going to try not to look at you as if you're a tiresome inconvenience or a loathsome specimen, and I should just be able to say 'no' politely but firmly and go on with my life. Somehow it never works out that way. I get all flustered and either end up sounding like an idiot housewife who can't do anything without her husband's consent or I end up with chocolate-covered driveway sealer or something equally useless.
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Let's pause and savour the ludicrousness of this. I was happy because now that I knew it was a con, I could righteously and indignantly refuse to buy a painting (since politely and firmly had failed utterly). In order for me to say no when I really want to, the person has to be at the very least a misdemeanour fraudster, and an outright felon would clearly be preferable.
I still didn't have the guts to meet her at the door. I printed out a copy of the description of the scam, stuck it on the front door, took an Ativan and went to bed. Thinking once again that I am in dire need of some sort of help.