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I had just started pumping gas into the Jeep. On the opposite side of the pump a couple was having a rather intense conversation in their car. Eventually the woman stepped out of the late-model Toyota and approached me rather tentatively. “We’re headed to California and my purse was just stolen,” she said. “We don’t know what to do.” She pulled a gold ring from her finger. “Could I trade you my ring for some gasoline?” 

It sounded fishy to me. It always does. 

“We can fix our problems once we get to California. We just have to get there somehow, and we’re nearly out of gas.” She was wearing traditional Indian garb, resplendent in a colorful blue sari. He sat crouched behind the steering wheel, a fez perched atop his bowed head. He seemed mournful, deflated. He finally looked up with pleading eyes. 

I said to her, “I’ll buy you some gas. You can keep your ring.” The words were out of my mouth before I considered just how much a tank of gas would cost. Once you say it, of course, you can’t take it back. 

She continued to thrust the ring toward me. “Please, please take it.”

I shook my head. “It’s fine. Keep your ring.” Meanwhile, my mind was working out the logistics. I didn’t have enough cash and I would have to use my credit card. I stepped around to wave my card in front of the reader, and then shielded my ZIP code from her eyes as I typed it in. She pulled the nozzle from the pump and began to fill her tank. I stepped back around to tend to my own vehicle, hoping there wasn’t a scanner on the pump or some other device that had just captured my credit card number. I reminded myself to check online later to see if there were any unauthorized charges. 

She finished filling her tank and bowed toward me. She offered the sparkling gold ring one last time before getting into the car. I shook my head and smiled. From the front seat he clasped his hands together and bowed as well. I nodded and they drove off. 

“Dude, you just got scammed!” He was 30-something with a big, bushy, brown beard and an even bigger voice. His huge black Chevy Silverado was parked behind me and he had watched the whole thing transpire. 

“Maybe,” I replied, easily convinced he might be right. 

He laughed. “There’s no ‘maybe’ about it. They just ripped you off.”

It’s hard to respond, and I paused a bit while I finished pumping the gas and returned the nozzle to the slot. 

It was too long of a pause for him, and he continued: “They probably work that scam everywhere they go. They pay a couple bucks for a worthless ring and they keep finding suckers who fall for the story.”

I was ready to leave, but I just didn’t want him to have the last word, so I smiled and said, “Well, there are worse things in this world than getting scammed.”

He instantly got an incredulous look on his face. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard today. What’s worse than getting scammed?”

I responded with, “Well, one thing would be not being generous to people in need. I think that’s worse than getting scammed.”

“You are a fool!” was his retort as I climbed into my Jeep, waved, and got back on the highway. He got the last word anyway.

I checked, but there’s been no suspicious activity on my credit card account. I’m out only $85.32.


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