Tuesday, September 28, 2010

63 Dollars Lighter

There’s a Sucker born every minute” – David Hannum

A Fool and his money are soon parted” – Thomas Tusser

Care to guess what happened to me today?


A bit of exposition to start:

  • I help out at my mom’s flower shop in Sherman Oaks.
  • I don’t make any money working in the flower shop.
  • I’ve been unemployed for a little over a year and a half.
  • I’ve been living off my savings.
  • I spent a little over $1,100 on car repairs yesterday, and $500 on tires two days before that.

Everything that follows is completely true and authentic. The quotes, should I use any, are to the best of my recollection, if not exact, but are by no means embellished. Enjoy.


It was a slow day in the flower shop today. I was there by myself. Around 3:30pm a man came in. He was visibly distraught. He told me he was a neighbor, that he lived just down the street, and that there was no reason for me to be afraid.

It was an odd thing to say, it was the middle of the day in Sherman Oaks. Afraid of what? I suspect given his attire (ratty, dingy clothes, he could have easily passed for a vagrant), his dentition (he was missing the majority of his lower front teeth) and the certainty that I wasn’t the first person he’d approached, he’d more than likely evoked that emotion in those that came before me. To me however, any person walking through the front door of the shop is a potential customer.

He then told me that he has AIDS, at which point he lifted up his shirt sleeve to show me his arm, which, as best as I can describe, was merely a skin wrapped humerus. No muscle, no fat. Just complete and utter atrophy. While it was quite sickly looking, I’m no doctor, so whether or not it was an actual result/condition/symptom of AIDS, or if it was due to some accident he had had, I couldn’t tell you. He reassured me that I didn’t have to worry, that I wouldn’t get AIDS from him.

He explained, in a manner that seemed as though he was teetering on the verge of tears, that no one else was home with him, not his mom, or his little sister, and he urgently needed to get to the Rite-Aid where he was going to have a prescription filled.

He continued, in ever growing detail, to let me know that he had rectal bleeding. He then turned around and lifted his shirt off the back of his shorts to show me the blood stain, that I (thankfully) didn’t actually see. He said that he had Medi-Cal and had something setup at Rite-Aid through AIDS Project Los Angeles to get an anal suppository to stop the bleeding, he gave me the pharmaceutical name, which was lost on me the moment he said it, but he still needed to come up with the co-pay. He even pulled out a pre-cut quarter page form of some sort (NOT a prescription slip, but similar in size) with his name (which I’m withholding…for the time being anyway), (what he claimed was) his Medi-Cal number, plus some various other information, to prove to me the legitimacy of his claims.

Apparently his father was driving up the 5 freeway to get to him, but he was still a ways out. According to my “neighbor”, his father told him to go into an office and see if someone would give him the money, and that as soon as dad got into the valley, he would gladly pay that person back.

He was pleading with me. Please, please, could I please just help him. I was gonna get the money back. He was gonna pay me back. I had nothing to worry about, he told me.

My “neighbor” needed $36 and some change.


For the most part, I’m not a gullible person.

Nor am I a bleeding heart.

In fact, I generally dislike all but a select few.

But there I went, reaching for my wallet. I pulled out two twenties and handed them over to him.

He thanked me, grabbed a business card so he would know where to come back, shook my hand, and told me not to worry, that I would get my money back.

I was skeptical. Didn’t think I would see that money ever again. This is generally how much I think of my fellow man, not just this particular fellow. But I figured $40 was a small price to pay for a clear conscience, on the off chance that his story was legit.


Cut to a short 15 minutes later, when my “neighbor” comes back in saying that he just spoke to his mom and that she’s real close by, almost there. Like a schmuck, I’m thinking, “wow, this guy was telling the truth, his mom is almost here, so he came back to return my money, and he’ll just have her pay for his medication.”

Notice the part where I said “like a schmuck.” I had gotten too far ahead of myself.

See, yes, he had spoken to his mother, but he was not there to reward my trusting and selfless gesture. Nope. Apparently, he had spoken to his mother who told him that they were giving him some different medication, cue a new pharmaceutical name that was again lost on me, and that he no longer needed $36 dollars, but that he would actually now be needing $66 dollars.

More pleading and promises as I explained to him that I didn’t think I had enough left to cover that. There was no fucking way I was gonna pull money out of the till. My own personal cash is one thing, but I wasn’t about to hurt my moms (already struggling) business to help out a guy who at this point I was near positive was scamming me. But still…

…I pulled out the wallet a second time. There were four bills inside. A twenty and three singles. That’s all I had left. That was every last dollar I had on me. I took it out and counted it. Twenty-three dollars. I showed him my now empty wallet as he kept pleading. “So I’ll only need three more dollars. That’s okay,” he said to me. I would get my money back he told me again. And I handed it over. It was now around 3:45pm.

Me and my empty wallet waited patiently for my “neighbor’s” mother, or father, or second cousin, or great uncle twice removed, to come replenish my coffers, perking up every time someone would walk by outside. Holding out hope that they were gonna be coming in the shop, thinking to myself, “oh, do you have my money? No. How about you?” I’m still unsure if any of these thoughts were involuntarily vocalized.

And then it happened, around 6:00pm, a well dressed black man (the “neighbor” was also black) with money in his hand walked into the flower shop. Bully for me! I had made the right decision by casting aside my overwhelming doubts and performing this good deed, and here it was, my reward, in the form of my money being returned to me!

“Hi. Can I get some quarters for the parking meter.” – Well Dressed Black Man

Figures. No good deed goes unpunished I guess.

Maybe my “neighbor’s” a Nigerian Prince.

An hour later I closed the shop for the day…

…63 Dollars lighter.

But yeah, I’m still the asshole cause I was three bucks short.

- Lenny

Oh, and if anyone actually reads this and chooses to leave a comment, no racist shit about the guy being black, because I’ve been scammed and robbed by white dudes as well.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds awfully similar to the Asian man who approached Lisa and I in the Ralph's parking lot off Coldwater & Ventura, stating he was a traveling engineer who was up in the valley for a project, had run out of gas and left his wallet at the work site, and needed to get back home to costa mesa. Despite his offer of a business card and stating he would pay us back via Paypal once he got home, we politely told him to go away, after which he was spotted by a nice lady parked a few cars down who asked if he had gotten home with the $25 she had given him 2 weeks earlier... Scammers suck!