No Cab Fare
I think I was kind of burnt out on this strange excuse for a city before I even got here. It’s hard to stay upbeat in a city where half the population thrives on cheating the other half. (Which is strange because normally I LOVE those stories.) Since I’ve been here I’ve had a good time with my couch surfing hosts but I’ve been threatened by an old man in a dive bar and I’m pretty sure that last night I met one of the world’s worst con men.
That last part was actually kind of cool now that I think about it. For some reason I’ve been completely fascinated by con men for most of my life. I’ve LITERALLY read every single non-fiction book published in the English language about con men. (I think if it weren’t for my overdeveloped conscience and sense of social responsibility the con man world would have a new king.) And I hope I see that guy again so I can interview him…assuming he doesn’t try to punch me in the face and run when I turn the camera on.
I was walking down the street, minding my own business (which I’ll admit is kind of unusual for me), when a down on his luck old man asked me for the time. He looked like he was about three notches above homeless (more than I can say for myself) but he did go through the trouble of combing his hair (more than I can say for myself). Plus I’m a good guy so naturally I started talking to him.
His story went a little something like this: He flies out from Boston every couple of months, loses several thousand dollars and then flies back. He loses enough that he never has to pay for a room and he gets comped random show tickets. This time around he was comped tickets to David Copperfield and Blue Man Group but he had already lost five grand so he was just going to head back to Bean-Town and miss the shows.
At some point I told him I was a travel writer (that’s kind of my “go to” job title if I don’t want to have to explain myself) and he asked if I like the shows.
“I don’t usually go to them. I’ve only seen one or two in all the times I’ve been here.”
“I have some tickets I was comped. If you want I can call in and have them transferred to your name.”
“Sure, that sounds awesome!”
He went on to explain that he was giving them to me not selling them and then he asked me to dial the number for him. I dial. A lady answers.
“blah blah bla-blahblahblah.” She says.
“I’m sorry, who’s this?”
“MGM grand. How can I help you?” She clarifies.
“Hold on I have someone that wants to talk to you.”
I hand the phone to the old man and he asks to be transferred to the VIP desk and then goes on to ask someone to change the name on the tickets to “a friend of my kids’.” While the dude on the other end is (presumably) typing away he tells me about the friend he was supposed to meet that was going to loan him some money.
I ask him a few questions about his situation and how often he makes it to Vegas, just chitchat. He answers. Then he holds up a finger and says, “Hold on.” Listens to the phone for a second or two then asks me to spell my name and whether I would like to see the early show or the late show.
While he’s still on the line he explains, “Okay, you have two tickets to David Copperfield in the 7th row and two tickets to Blue Man Group for the 5th row.”
After he hangs up he explains that it’s important that I didn’t buy the tickets from him and that they were just a gift and I can pick them up between 10am and 5pm tomorrow (meaning today now, I guess). Then he fixes me with a stern glare, “Don’t waste these. You have to pick them up before five or you lose them. That’s a $700 comp all together.”
“Dude, I’ll be there. Thank you so much, Mike.”
As we parting ways he says again, “I gave these to you I didn’t sell them. Right?”
“Right.” I nod.
“These guys cleaned me out though I don’t even have cab fare to the airport.”
I put on my best puppy dog face and explained that I would LOVE to help him out and that I really appreciate what he did but I don’t own any money (I felt the fact that I had twenty bucks in my pocket was immaterial. In principle, I have no money.)
“How do you eat?”
“Kindness of strangers.”
“Strangers?!” This is the part where he put on his angry eyes. “All right, take care.” And then he walked away in the opposite direction.
Sounds awesome right?
Here’s the hiccup. I’m fairly convinced he was a con man. A pretty awesome one though. I would have been absolutely convinced he was doing what he says he was doing over the phone. Perfect there. I even googled the number he had me call from my phone to double check it went to the MGM. The biggest problem is that he chose the absolute wrong dude to try this on.
I’m only in Las Vegas to find a magician so that I can be part of a stage illusion (#24) so I already knew that David Copperfield isn’t even in town.
No cab fare for Mike.
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