My closest encounter with con men
I went to visit some banks today for company meetings. After that, I waited for a taxi to go back. Standard routine.
A taxi came to me and I said my address 'La Gare de Bessengue', the driver honked, a sign of acceptance. The taxi had 2 other passengers, both males. The first thing I entered, I realised that the taxi does not have a tag. Oh careless me how come I forgot to check for this before I enter? It is always good practice to ensure that the taxis I take are licensed. But well, let's just be for this time. I carefully looked at the path the driver was taking, just to be sure he's taking the normal route.
Halfway, one passenger who was seated in the front, Mr. Skinny, spoke in English but the driver couldn't understand him, and asked me to help translate. But the second passenger who was sitting beside me, Mr. Fat, helped to translate instead. Mr. Skinny just came off from the airport, and his European brother gave the taxi driver 5000F to take him to the blind centre. He comes from the Vatican City and is going to the blind centre to give them blessings. The taxi driver said that the blind centre is in Yaounde not Douala, and Yaounde is 200km away. Mr. Skinny exclaimed and asked the driver to take him back to the airport after dropping all of us so that he can take another flight to Yaounde. "Money is no problem for me," said Mr. Skinny.
Then, he turned to thank me and Mr. Fat for the translation, and offered us some money for the service. Mr. Fat said no we will not accept it, and I quickly agreed. Mr. Skinny then said he will pray for us instead. So he took the hand of Mr. Fat and mine, and performed some prayer. He then asked us for paper, which the driver gave. He gave Mr. Fat and I each a piece, and asked us to put all our money in, and he will pray that our wealth will increase. Mr. Fat quickly used it to wrap a paper-wrapped bunch, and some loose cash notes. I wrapped it with my 200F (around RM1.60) taxi money. Mr. Skinny prayed for Mr. Fat, and asked him to keep his money in his pocket. He then took mine. When he was about to pray, he frowned.
Mr. Skinny: That can't be all your money.
Me: That's all I have.
Mr. Skinny: C'mon. You should take out all your money so that I can pray for you.
Me: I only had these much for today.
Mr. Skinny: Where are the rest of your money?
Me: They are at home.
Mr. Skinny: Who do you stay with?
Me: My husband.
Mr. Skinny: Is your husband at home now?
Me: No he's working.
(All along, Mr. Fat was doing translation for me into French, which I have repeatedly told him I understand English.)
Mr. Skinny finally performed his blessing for me, and returned me my paper and money.
Mr. Skinny: When we get to your house, I will bless all your money for you.
Mr. Skinny: Who are in your home?
Me: My friends.
Mr. Skinny: You know, I don't need a lot of people to gather for me. Just bring out all your money, and I will pray for you.
Me: No it's ok.
Mr. Skinny: Why not?
Me: It's really ok.
Mr. Skinny: You are not bringing out your money?
Mr. Skinny: Why not?
Me: Because I don't need your blessings. Your blessing now is good enough.
By then, the taxi has thankfully arrived at La Gare de Bessengue. I took out the 200F from the paper wrap, gave it to the driver and walked off. This was truly a funny episode, and I have no idea what that weird Vatican man is doing.
When I reached the MC house, I showed the paper to Belinda, and I told her that this was given by a man who claimed he comes from Vatican. Immediately, Belinda looked really concerned. She asked me to check if my handphone is still around, as well as my other valuables. I checked. They are all there. Belinda told me that this is a con, all people in the taxi are one gang of con men together. The MCs started going into their own recounts of the various con incidents they have encountered.
As I was listening, I was like phew! I am so glad that nothing happened to me eventually. Because, though I felt that the situation was weird, I did not diagnose that they were all con men together. I did not realise how close I was with danger. Very luckily, nothing bad has happened to me, except a weird taxi ride. Better still, the sharing and joking of the story has healed my homesickness by a lot. Immediately after the laugh off, I felt so much better now, that I am smart and I have saved myself.
Weirdly, these con men have made my day. But it's definitely been a close brush with danger.