Later on during that first night, D. told me that that his luggage had been stolen. He was waiting for American Express to ship another card out to him, and in lieu of payment his hotel was hanging on to his passport as guarantee of payment. I took pity on him and paid for the drinks that night, and he said he’d pay me back the next day, when his card was certain to come. I even slipped him a 50-peso note on the way out so that he could eat the next day.
We met the next night, and he said his card still hadn’t arrived, that it was held up at the Oaxaca DHL distribution hub—and you know, the Mexican notion of mañana, mañana was working against him. At no time did he ask for money, and believing him, I always offered to buy drinks. This continued for a couple of days, with me always paying for drinks—no more than $5 worth, except one night when we went to a club and ordered a bottle of tequila for $50. (Oh, sweet hangover the next day, that was a mistake!) And I’d slip him a 20- or 50-peso note for food at the end of the night.
Throughout these nights a brief outline of D.’s moral character started to emerge, and I wasn’t too impressed by it. He bragged about cuckolding a man, than going out to lunch with him and his girlfriend, whom D. had slept with earlier that day. He told me about a lecture his boss once gave him about the business he was in, about profiting off of other people’s losses, and laughed about his boss’s concern that he worked merely for the sake of greed (which he had no problem with). And one night he was trying his best to seduce a married woman in front of her toddler child. He had no conception of moral responsibility to others. Frankly, I was getting sick of being around him. But how could I not meet him every night, when that night (which never came) was the night that he would pay me back? (Besides, he appealed to my own sense of greed by saying that he had so many frequent-flyer miles racked up that he’d give me a round-trip ticket from Guatemala to Venezuela. When he first offered it, I shrugged it off as too good to be true. But he was so incessant with his offer, I finally said I’d take him up on it. I’ll let the reader guess as to whether that panned out or not.)
The last night I saw D., he said that he was flying to the DHL hub in Oaxaca to pick up his Amex card himself. He promised that he’d meet me the next night to pay me back, and then asked me, for the first time, for some money. I loaned him 220 pesos, shook his hand, and offered him luck. Perhaps my doubt was showing through, because he insisted that luck had nothing to do with it: He’d have his Amex card by early the next morning.
Needless to say, I never saw him again.
Several things that should have alerted me but I was too oblivious to:
- Why was his Amex card stolen, but not his passport?
- He needed his passport to board a plane to Oaxaca, yet he said he his hotel was holding it in lieu of payment. How did he get on the plane?
- Why did his e-mail address use the googlemail.com domain, when google uses gmail.com?
- Why did he give me a telephone number with an 847 area code, which is for the Chicago area, when he purportedly lives in New York City?
- If he was such a big spender with a platinum Amex card, why didn’t American Express try a little harder to get it to him in a timely manner?
- Why couldn’t he simply get money wired from his work, if he was such a money earner like he said?
- And if I am wrong with my suspicions, why hasn’t he e-mailed me to apologize?
All in all, I am out about $70 to $75, which is a pretty small sum to have been conned out of. In fact, that’s what makes it so perplexing: Why all the trouble of lying to me and inventing all these stories for such a meager sum? Perhaps it’s that being a con man is like any other sort of addiction, and the payoff is in the con, not the amount swindled. Maybe my simply believing his story was enough to give him the rush he was after. That, together with his in-retrospect sexual-addiction behavior, paint a picture of a man living on impulse alone, with little regard for the people he interacts with. Whether it’s due to Asperger’s or because he is simply a self-absorbed sociopath, it’s a sad life that I saw a glimpse of, and I wonder how it will all wind up in the end. Probably none too prettily. I am glad that I’m through with my association with him.
Unfortunately, people like him (and there are a lot of really sketchy characters in places where travelers congregate) make it hard for others who are on the road. People do get all their possessions stolen at times. And people do depend on the kindness of strangers. But they will not be able to depend on me anymore. Thanks to people like D., I won’t trust them anymore.
Update: Hours after writing this post, while I was (of course) back in the wine bar trying to ease the pain of being swindled, a burly enraged Israeli man ran up to Carlo the proprietor, looking for D. (Darius, I can can tell you now that his criminality has been corroborated). This man was staying at the same hostel as Darius, and was now missing some articles of clothing. It seems that in addition to my 200 pesos, Darius took this man's shoes and fleece jacket! We talked briefly, commiserating together, and laughed it off. He did say, though, that he's putting the word out over the Internet (as I guess I have too).