Perhaps it happens everywhere, but the Caribbean seems to have the best when it comes to conmen, scammers and the downright loopy.
Over the years, I have learned how to deal with beggars – the ones who stop you in the street and ask for a couple of bucks. Usually, they are harmless; perhaps they are unwashed and look wild, but then why wouldn’t they if they are living rough?
I used to feel intimidated by the down-and-outs, but not anymore. Also, I used to worry that they would spend the money I gave them on booze or drugs instead of food. I no longer do that because the money I give them is no longer mine. Sure, I hope they don’t shove it in their arm or up their nose, but that’s their choice.
On the island where I live there are certain areas where you can expect to meet beggars and I am always ready for them with a couple of dollars set aside in pocket. Usually all they want is a couple of bucks; it isn’t even the price of a beer.
Someone once helped me with more than a couple of bucks, and I always remember that.
Conmen and scammers, now, that’s a different story.
The favorite con in the Caribbean is the “I know you, do you remember me?” scam. And yes, I have fallen for it.
Here’s two attempts that took place while I was in Curaçao (don’t worry; we’re coming to the loony). The first scam involved a guy who stepped in front of my wife and I while we were taking an evening stroll. I saw it coming a mile off. It always begins with eye contact and once they have made eye contact, and you have returned it, then the game is on. After stroking you, it’s time for the sting. This particular guy’s opening line was classic and a dead giveaway: “Hello, you remember who I am?”
Bad. No money from me.
The next encounter took place the following night. Here’s how it went down:
We were sitting on a bench watching the boats go in and out of Curaçao harbor when suddenly a smartly dressed guy with a neatly trimmed beard squat down in front of us and offered me his hand. If someone offers a hand in friendship, then I feel you should take it. Of course, I knew what was coming next.
“You look like an intelligent man,” he said.
That was a new opening line, so he got points for that.
His smile vanished when I said, “You’re scamming, hassling us when we just want to be left alone to enjoy the evening,” and he took off … sans money from me.
Later, I overheard a policeman, who obviously knew him, tell him to stop bothering the tourists.
Our ‘loopy’ encounter happened in Bonaire. We were sitting on the deck of a restaurant having dinner when a young guy with a large brindle dog bounded down the road. The guy was shirtless and wearing hacked-off cargo pants over plaid boxer shorts. The cargo pants were down around his knees and he spent the next 15 minutes running backwards and forwards outside the restaurant, stopping opposite the deck to bend over and show his boxer shorts and backside to the diners. Laughing, he would then call the dog and together they sprinted off down the street. At no time did he expose himself, just his plaid boxer shorts.
Later, he waved as he drove by in his car.
I’d have certainly given him a few dollars but he never asked!