Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Scam Artist


Sometimes the last fare of the night is the most memorable. Maybe because it was the best trip of the night, going to Portland, Eugene or Waldport for anywhere from one to three hundred dollars. Then again, maybe it was because it was the worst trip in the night, resulting in not getting paid, or some kind of a hostile encounter, including the police. Monday night when I worked my usual four to four shift, it was 3:30 AM, and I just gassed up and was getting ready to call it a night, when the dispatcher gave me a call. I was tired and didn’t want to do it, but it had been a slow night, and when you work on straight commission, it’s hard to pass up another buck.

“Number twenty-five, get the AM/PM on Auburn and Lancaster, for Polly,” Dotty, the dispatcher said.

When I arrived, there was a young blond woman, in a heavy coat sitting on the sidewalk, on the side of the building, who looked to be in her late twenties. When I pulled into a parking space she got up and opened the passenger door of my cab.

“Are you here for Polly?” She asked.

“Yes,” I told her.

She got in with a large purse and told me that she wanted to go to the AM/PM on Lansing and Market. She looked like she was either a stripper, hooker or both. As I started driving she held up a newspaper that she told me was making public all the recent criminal arrests in Salem, with a listing of the perpetrators crimes, along with their photos. Then she started laughing, as she told me that her boyfriend was included, and she showed me his picture. Then she proceeded to read the reason for his arrest. He led the police on a high speed chase, on Cordon Road, Sunnyview and Lancaster, until he crashed into the Roadhouse Grill and fled on foot, until he was apprehended, and charged with multiple offences, including violating parole and being in possession of a controlled substance.

I told her that her story reminded me of the time that I picked up a guy at “Shooters Bar”, who got in the cab with a newspaper, and forgot something in the bar. While he retrieved whatever it was, I read the front page of the Statesman Journal. It was about a young man who was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for being an accessory to a gang/drug execution of his childhood friend, whose dismembered body was subsequently fed to pigs on a farm in Woodburn. When my passenger returned he asked me what I was reading, and when I told him, he said that the convicted man was his brother, who was innocent, and a lawyer was working on his appeal, at that time.

She started to laugh, and told me that the brothers that I was talking about were also friends of hers. By this time I arrived at the destination and pulled into an empty parking space. Polly opened her purse and pulled out a wallet, and she began looking in it.

“Where is it?” She rhetorically asked. “I know that I had my money in here before you picked me up. Maybe it fell out of my pocket. No, it has to be in here.”

She was frantically searching the interior of her purse, as I thought to myself – “Here is the classic, I lost my money scam, that somebody plays on me at least once or twice every year.”

The last time was about six months ago, when I picked up a guy on Ichabod Street, and drove him to the US Market next to Walgreens on Sunnyview and Lancaster, for five dollars. I gave him a receipt and he never did come to the office or mail it in like he said that he would to pay his debt. Her fare was six-ninety, and she wanted to go back to her pick up point to look for her money. That didn’t make sense, since it would cost more money, and then what if she didn’t find it, plus I didn’t believe her anyway.

Since I wasn’t going to drive back, she wanted to know what to do? I told her to give me her ID and I would write down the information, give her a receipt and then she could pay it later. She said that she lost her ID, and didn’t have any, so I told her that I would have to file a police report, to which she got upset and told me that next time she would not call Yellow cab, but another company. She indignantly got out of the cab, leaving her purse inside telling me that she knew the people at this Arco, so she would get the money from them. I waited for about five minutes, until she returned with the money. She handed me eight dollars and I returned one single dollar to her and kept the dime, for a tip.

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