“I’m really sorry – oh, do you speak English?”
I nodded. Her words came out in a rush. Here are some of them.
“This is ridiculous, I know, I live just over there in the Oxford Road and I was taking my stuff out to the car and the door slammed and I’m locked out. I’ve tried phoning my fiancé and my mother but –” she showed me her phone “ – they’re not answering and I haven’t got enough petrol to get to Slough…” I didn’t say anything. “Look, you can come and see my petrol gauge, I’m meant to be at work by eleven … I really don’t feel comfortable doing this, but I do need help.” She looked ready to cry.
What would you have done?
Afterwards, I thought of several things. She’d gone to find a pen for me to write down my phone number. I could have kept the pen. It was quite an expensive one. Even better, I could have said “Okay, follow me down to the garage and we’ll put some petrol in your car.” Or I could have said “I don’t believe a word of this, and I’m going to call the police.”
I didn’t do any of these. I lent her ten quid. I really don’t know why; it’s the oldest scam in the world and I’ve been taken by it before. I knew as I gave her the money that I’d never see it again. Maybe I wanted to reward her for her act, which really was very good. I’d have liked to have had a conversation with her in which I convinced her that she could and should apply her obvious talents more creatively and lucratively. Instead I smiled, shook hands and drove off.
She’ll never read this, of course, but I’d like to think that one night she’ll wake up and realise that what she was doing was the worst of sins, which is to deliberately betray someone’s trust. When that comes to her, as I hope it will, then she’ll be on the way to becoming a proper human being. In the meantime, I reckon I got the best of the deal.