Every so often I’m hit by a big dose of Deja vu. An internal nudging grin saying, “Well young Bill, you’ve been here before.” Yesterday’s attack of semi nostalgia came when I was busily lining up to take a picture opposite the Palais Garnier.
While getting ready to take my second shot, I was approached from behind by a fat, middle aged, middle European accented woman, who palmed a heavy gold coloured ring at me, appearing to pick it up off the floor, pressing it into my hands, saying how lucky I was. Which caught me off guard. Up until that moment, my brain had been happily going “This is nice. Hello trees, hello, flowers, hello Mr Sun, what a lovely Parisian day.” I’d just had a lovely Steak dinner with a beer and was about as relaxed as I ever get.
From what I could make out, she wanted me to ‘share’ my good fortune with her by giving her money so I could do what I wanted with a very heavy feeling man’s gold(ish) wedding ring. Had my old street senses been online at this point, I would have given her a tight little smile, waved her off and walked on. As it was, I wanted another shot of the building from my chosen vantage point at the pedestrian crossing’s edge and didn’t really want to budge.
Now I’ve seen this particular scam before, and this was one of the finer examples of the art. The ring was almost convincing, and even had me pulling out my reading glasses to examine it. But the question bubbled up in the vestiges of my nasty suspicious mind; why the hell wasn’t she taking this ‘lost property’ to the Police, instead of pressing it on a total stranger? Memory provided the answer. I’d seen this before. The Ring Scam. So I said, “No, no, you take it to the Police. It’s not mine.” And made to place the offending ring on the pedestrian railing. Ooo Sticker, you cunning old SOB. At this point I became acutely aware that I wasn’t watching my camera bag and pockets as closely as I should. My internal mental compass spun and suspicion gyro’s lit up, senses sounding for any unusual intrusions around my pockets. I’m acutely aware these guys often work in teams. So I quickly pushed the ring back at her, insisting that she hand it to the Police as lost property, making it plain that no cash was coming her way from my wallet. To my internal amusement she was getting quite shirty at this point. Then I ducked my camera into its bag which was zipped pointedly closed, managing to convince the scam artist that I wasn’t going to bite. I’ll give her this, she was persistent. She just didn’t seem to know she’d been rumbled.
Abandoning hope of getting another shot of my target, I moved across the street with a bunch of other tourists, catching up with Mrs S, who had gone ahead of me while I was being a happy snapper. My good wife asked (as wives often do); “What was all that about?”
“Con artist tried to pull the old ring scam on me.”
“Oh, so that’s what it was.” Mrs S has often been regaled by my tales of street life, and recognised the term immediately. We moved on. It was too nice a day to dwell on it and the bars were open.