Saturday, April 7, 2007

Tales from the District

I'm back in DC! I've been here for over a week now, settling in to my new place near Georgetown, meeting with temp agencies, setting up informational interviews, singing with Choral Arts, and just generally enjoying the delight that is this City. I have some stories and observations for you, my 3 loyal readers.

• I was the target of a con-artist the other day. Well, I'd say "artist" is too generous; let's call him a con-finger-painter. I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival with Sweetie (before the cherry blossoms froze -- pictures here), and all was generally pleasant until a large goateed man in a "wife-beater," his arms covered knuckle to shoulder in tattoos, approached us. He was holding a cheap disposable camera. He pointed to my camera -- a digital SLR that set me back quite a pretty penny -- and said, "I'll trade you." What? "You take my picture with mine, and I'll take your picture with yours." Now, I like to think that I am somewhat street-savvy, but frankly this guy would be lucky to trick a mentally disabled 10-year-old. I told him No Thanks but I'd take his picture. He protested and got a bit pushy. "Come on man," he said, "you two should get a picture with each other." "We've got lots of those," I said. "Come on, let me just take a picture of you guys." This man REALLY wanted to get his hands on my camera. "No," I said. "I'll take your picture though," I said, trying to remain friendly. I grabbed his disposable camera --


No, I actually just snapped his picture, and then I quickly grabbed Sweetie and got the hell out of there. I kept my eye on him, though, and sure enough, about a minute later I saw him trying the same ruse on another fellow with expensive gear. Would anyone really fall for that? And does the man honestly think he'll just be able to run away with a big camera and no one would stop him or call out for the police?

• I was dreaming that I was in a musical, and I had been performing in it for a couple weeks, and now, finally, my friends and family were coming to the show. It was the opening scene, and we were all singing a big musical number, and I was putting together a bird cage on stage, and all was going swimmingly. Then, right in the middle of a big crescendo -- MY ALARM CLOCK RANG! And i I realized, in my dream, what had happened: that this was indeed a dream, and nothing more. And I remember the disappointment I felt in my dream that I wouldn't get to continue the musical, and my disappointment at the knowledge I now possessed that the dream would soon irretrievably fade away. I was also annoyed that I was being awakened by the Beep instead of the Radio; I could have sworn I had set the clock to waken me with music! Then, within a few seconds, the stage, the audience, the music faded to oblivion, and I was laying in my bed, listening to the new music of the day: "Beep! Beep! Beep!"

• I am really torn on Bluetooth headsets. They are so much more convenient than wired headsets, but they don't sound as clear. I'm left to choose between sounding clear to people on the other end but being TANGLED by wires, or sounding *okay* but being able to walk around totally free and clear. Tough choice. Of course, I could always just hold the handset up to my ear, but what's the point of living in an era of modern conveniences if I don't use them? I wrote a review of my Plantronics 510 on -- check it out, and when Amazon asks if this review was helpful to you, click Yes! :-)

• The day after the Great Cherry Blossom Con of 2007, I had yet another run-in with a less than savory individual. I was driving down Reservoir Road when the guy in the next car knocked on his window to get my attention. "Hey, I can fix that for you," said the Arab man. "Much cheaper than a body shop. Why don't you pull over and I can give you my business card and an estimate?" Now, as noted above, my street savviness is through the roof, but I had a feeling that this guy wasn't about to mug and/or rape and/or murder me. I had some time to kill, and was interested in getting my broken front bumper fixed, so I pulled into a nice little subdivision. He pulled up behind me.

"This is my day off, and I can fix this for you really cheap," he said.
"Well, how much?" I said.
He walked around the car and estimated he could fix my front bumper for $600, and sand and re-paint the scratches on my left front panel for $100. A pretty good deal, considering it would likely cost a couple thousand were the auto mechanic to do it.
"Let me think about it," I said. "Why don't you give me your card and I'll let you know."
He started to get evasive, and my Savvy Meter went off the charts. "The thing is," he said, without even checking his pocket, "I'm out of business cards."
"Okay..." I responded. "Well, why don't you give me your phone number."
He recited a number, but then got pushy. "The thing is, today's my day off, and I really need the money. I can do it right now."
"I don't have cash right now," I said firmly.
"That's okay, man, look at you, you obviously got money. I can take a check."
"Listen, I'm not going to do it today. I've got appointments. But I'll call you and let you know. What's your name?"
He paused, for just a millisecond too long. "Alex Johnson," he said. I had never before met any Arabs named Alex Johnson. He was almost certainly lying. "The thing is, man, I'm on my way to the hospital right now," he continued. "My wife and I are having a baby today! A son."
"Oh really."
"Yeah," he said, smiling.
"What's his name?" I said, looking for details.
He smiled wider. "Danny Blue." (Beautiful Arabic name, isn't it?) "And I really need the money, because I want to go get my son some clothes, you know, help him start out right."
"I see." I was positive he had chosen the stereotypically Irish sounding name "Danny Blue" because I have red hair and, as far as he knew, could very well be Irish. Tryin' to play on me sympathies, now, are ya? "If you really need the money," I continued, "you can do it later and still get the money. When's your next day off?"
"I'm free every day!"
"Every day? Where do you work?"
"I'm on my own. I'm an independent contractor."
Uh huh. First it was his day off and he wanted to give me a business card. Now every day is his day off and he doesn't have any business cards. I was more direct now. "I'll call you. I have to go."
I got back in my car and took off. I sure hope Danny Blue doesn't turn out like Alex Johnson.

Addendum: Speaking of cons, I can't stand it when I call a gym to ask what their prices are, and they refuse to tell me over the phone. "Why don't you just come on down! Are you in the area? You can come on down and we can go over all the prices with you! We've got a lot of specials. Just come try us out!" Of course, if they get me down there, the chances that I'll sign up increase exponentially. (Well, the chances don't increase for ME, because I am aware of their schemes. But the average unwashed stands no chance.) Anyway, I was planning on stopping by anyway to try out their one week free trial, but the membership director's evasiveness on the telephone left a bad taste in my mouth. Anyone had any experience with the Washington Sports Clubs?


Gweepay! said...

You've been back here a week and you've already been subject to scams not once, not twice, but thrice! Guess that's the downside of being an Irish lawyer (almost) with a multi, er, hundred dollar camera.

Di said...

I've lived in DC for 3+ years and have never been the target of a scam... maybe I'm just less approchable looking :) As for WSC, I know several people who really like them, and there are quite a few around town. I know several people who do NOT like Gold's Gym, and one who swears by Sport & Health Club in Tenleytown. That's all I've got. I'm a yogi. I don't belong to a gym.

Di said...

BTW, and this is my professional opinion, you should never, ever pull over the way you did if someone tries to motion to you. You could have easily been robbed or carjacked or worse. If you really think a person is trying to be a good samaritan, drive to a gas station (there's one not far from where you said you were). I realize that it doesn't make for as good a story, but it's better to be boring and safe than a victim.

Clinton said...

I didn't have any problems at all with either the Tenleytown Sport & Health or the DC Jewish Community Center (which is freakin' awesome!). Good luck with your new gym!