Friday, July 25, 2008

Travels in Optimism

I'm going through old CDs and hard drives this morning, looking for some video material from 1998. I'd taken some sort of handheld video format camera from Kathmandu to Damascus, and I had transferred it to some other useless format at some point, but was hoping I'd left the material in digital form somewhere. I did not, so I'll have to find a way to digitize it again.

I did find a few seconds from an excursion in Northwest Pakistan, where the policeman whose job it was to keep us out of the region took a bribe to let us shoot his gun. At the time, shooting an AK-47 in Darra was kind of fun. Now, ten years later, in a different world, the innocence of the moment is a little embarrassing.


Marie Javins said...

Something I don't think I mentioned in 1998 when I was splattering my travelogues all over the Internet (not like, uh, now...) was that the guide or "fixer" we had, S, was trying to scam me somehow.

"I have these relatives in the States. I would like to send them some gems that are family heirlooms. They are worthless, but valuable to us. Will you take them?"

There was no way in hell I was taking anything, but I wanted to understand the game better.


"Okay, I will bring them tomorrow."

As the day wore on, we talked more. My guess is that he'd assumed I was clueless, and as he got to know me, decided that I wasn't such a good person to scam after all.

The next day, I asked about the gems.

"I forgot them. I will bring them tomorrow."

And the next day, I asked again. But then, I sounded almost challenging, more than a little cheeky.

"How 'bout those gems, S? I thought you wanted to get them to North America."

"Oh, I have found another way. Forget them."

I still wonder what the scam was exactly.

Ed Ward said...

Oh, that's a well-known one. I think you have to leave a deposit with him which, of course, the nonexistent "relatives" will pay back -- and more. Then you get some shards of glass which you schlep back to the States, and waste about ten bucks in long-distance phone calls before you realize the relatives don't exist and your $500 is gone forever.

Marie Javins said...

But he never mentioned money! That's what was so strange about it.

Ed Ward said...

He doesn't ask you for the money until he's got the gems. You look at them, assume they're genuine, are way impressed -- and maybe think, hmmm, I don't necessarily have to call his relatives when I get home; I can sell these myself -- and you wind up plus a handful of glass and minus some dough.

Marie Javins said...

Why on earth would that EVER work?

Ed Ward said...

One word: greed. The operative ingredient in 99% of scams. You think you're getting over on the other guy, but he's getting over on you.

Marie Javins said...

I suppose what was going on was first he'd bait the hook, then slowly introduce the gems (which he'd said were worthless). I don't really see how it could work from there. But I do know a guy who got involved in something like this after being given a drink. He became utterly open to any suggestion, lightheaded, and gave them all his money and took the gems.

The next day, he went back with the police, and a rapid refund was arranged.