Naive or Kind? Evil or Desperate?

He wore a pastel pink knitted turtleneck jumper tucked into his black trousers. He didn’t have much hair. He looked about 40, was dark, short and slim.

He held his electric blue Nokia tightly in his right hand, and paced around Raffles Hospital anxiously. I caught him looking at me from the corner of my eye. He drew in breath and wanted to speak, but gave up when he saw me hurrying by.

Aware of this, I retraced my footsteps. “Yes, can I help you?” His expression communicated anxiety, apology and sheer sheepishness. Clutching 50 cents in his left hand, he asked me if it was far to walk to Hougang.

Of course. This was Bugis. I started to doubt his intelligence. “I only have 50 cents. My friend didn’t pick up my call. I don’t have enough money to take bus to Hougang.” Less than 1 minute later, he was $1.50 richer.

Did I do the right thing? What if he was lying? Since I had chose to buy his story and help him, I decided I should give him benefit of the doubt. I prayed that he was genuinely in need of help.

It was not till later in the day when I mentioned this to Jean that we realised we both fell for the same ploy, only on different Sunday afternoons.

The same sheepish man. The same Nokia phone. The same 50 cents in his hand. The same destination, Hougang. The same tactic.

He’s just another con-man. I guess that explains his sorry expression.

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