I’ve learned how to deal with beggars – the ones who stop you in the street and ask for a couple of bucks. They’re usually harmless and yes, many are unwashed and look wild, but that’s life on the streets.
Down-and-outs used to intimidate me but not anymore. Also, I used to worry they would spend any money I gave them on booze or crack instead of food, but don’t do that anymore either. It’s their life, and once I give it to them, it’s their money. Sure, I hope they don’t shove it in their arm but that’s their choice, not mine.
On the island where I live there are certain areas where you can expect to meet beggars and I am always ready with a couple of dollars set aside in a pocket.
Someone once helped me with more than a couple of dollars, and I always remember that.
Loonies, Conmen and Scammers! Now that’s a different story.
Beware the: “Do you remember me?” scam. And yes, I have fallen for it.
Here’s two scam attempts that took place while I was in Curaçao (don’t worry; we’re coming to the loony). The first involved a smartly dressed guy who stepped in front of my wife and me while we were taking an evening stroll. It began, as it does, with strong eye contact and unless you look away, the game's in play. After showering us with bonhomie, he hit me with the immortal line: “You remember me?”
No dollars for him.
The next encounter happened as we were sitting on a bench watching the boats go in and out of Curaçao harbor when a handsome guy with a neatly trimmed beard and mustache squatted 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.
I've only heard that opening line once before, so he got points for that. But I was in no mood for this, and said: Yes, I’m intelligent and you’re scamming. You’re hassling us when all we want is to be left alone to enjoy the evening.” His smile vanished and he cussed and took off.
No dollars for him.
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 at a table outside a restaurant when a young guy with a large brindle dog bounded along the street. He was shirtless, shoe-less, and wore hacked-off cargo pants over plaid boxer shorts. The cargo pants were hanging around his knees and he spent the next 15 minutes running backwards and forwards in front of the tables with his dog, stopping on every pass to bend over and show us his boxer shorts. Cackling, he and the mutt then ran off in preparation for another pass. At no time did he expose himself, just his plaid boxer shorts.
Later, he waved as he drove past in his car.
I’d have given him a few dollars but he never asked!