One's born but one dies
The thing that struck me most about him was his acute discomfort.
He approached the door of the newspaper office timidly, walked in and stood on the threshold
as if uncertain about the kinds of creatures he would face inside.
He wore regular work clothes. There was nothing extraordinarily distinguishing about him. He just
looked nervous and uncomfortable.
He’d never done anything like this in his life, he told me as he timidly neared my desk.
He didn’t even know how to go about it … but if I would just bear with him, maybe he could
get his story out.
He was just so embarrassed.
He was a driver for the Arnold Baking Company, he said. His truck had broken down up the highway,
filled with his day’s delivery of breadstuffs. He’d gladly give our office staff a few loaves of our
favorite bread if only someone could lend him eight dollars to catch a bus back to his company to
get a substitute truck.
Oh, this was just so embarrassing.
Seeing what might have been a slightly skeptical look on my face, he produced a wad of credit
and identification cards. One in particular, an Arnold I.D. card, had his picture on it. He was
who he said he was. And he really did need help.
He just stood there looking woebegone while I pondered whether or not to help my fellow man in
distress and seemed overjoyed when I pulled out my wallet, scrounged out the eight bucks and
handed it to him.
He was so grateful.
After all, this had been so embarrassing. He scurried out the door, promising English muffins as
a thank you when he returned before our office closed at five.
I never saw him again.
In fact, when I called the Arnold Baking Company the next day to inquire about their poor drive
with all the truck trouble, I found that they never heard of him.
Indeed, someone from Arnold’s called back to warn me that this same an had pulled the same
scam on someone in a nearby community … the same story … the same ID cards … the
same eight bucks.
Everyone ribbed me about being too trusting.
I got kind advice from the local police clerk when I reported the flim-flam so others could be alerted
to the perpetrator’s method.
But no one taught me as valuable a lesson as the con artist himself.
And, thanks to him, someday, some person who is really in need will find a deaf ear when he or
she approaches me for help. At least when it comes to money, anyway.
That’s really very sad.
We were brought up to believe in the virtue of helping one’s neighbor. One of the greatest
commandments given by the Almighty involves the way we should treat our fellow man.
Just try it.
After the incident, I pondered what it was about the whole thing that really stuck in my craw. Was it
the money? Or was it the lie? … the deceit? … the con?
Had the guy come into the office, poured out his heart about being out of work, with sick kids and
nowhere else to turn, I probably would have given him the money to help out. At least day before
yesterday I might have.
It was the lie … the deliberate resort to fraud to weasel me out of money that is as important to me
as to him that really angers me.
It’s probably true that there’s a sucker born every minute.
But yesterday, one sucker died.
And a wiser, more cynical person emerged.
There’s the pity of it all.
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