By Nancy Seeley
A rotten thing happened to some good friends of mine recently — but they handled it splendidly…even laughed about it afterwards. Nevertheless, it’s a wakeup call to be careful about how you react to strangers, no matter how charming they might seem. Here’s their story…
Pablo (name changed) was walking home from el centro when a nicely dressed, attractive young Mexican woman who spoke pretty good English asked him for a light. Being a gentleman, Pablo immediately produced a lighter and helped her out, then continued on his way. A block or so later found him at his apartment, but as he was pulling out his keys, the same woman approached, clutching her stomach and saying she was so sorry to be troubling him, but she suddenly felt in dire need of a bathroom. Could he help? Certainly, my dapper amigo replied, and he escorted her into his Zihua home.
As she scurried to the baño, Pablo went to the bedroom where his wife Maria (name changed) was reading and told her what happened. The two of them went to the courtyard to await the return of their impromptu guest, who was taking so long Maria worried that she was really, REALLY sick, but finally they heard the toilet flush, and out she came.
The Mexican señorita profusely thanked her hosts, saying how wonderful it was to find people willing to help someone in need. She walked behind Maria and began rubbing her neck, saying she was a masseuse and would be so pleased to return their kindness with some relaxation therapy. Maria said there was no need. They wanted to help and didn’t expect payment, but the young woman persisted, and her ministrations felt quite wonderful, so eventually my friend found herself prone on her bed, receiving what she later said was one of the best massages of her entire life.
«Pablo!» called the señorita. «Come! I’ll give you a massage too!» Though Pablo was initially reluctant, Maria encouraged her husband, reminding him he’d been complaining of lower back pain, so soon he too was being attended to by their charismatic visitor, who then told Maria she needed to take a quick shower — as hot as she could stand it for a couple of minutes — to make the treatment as effective as possible. Off Maria went, and when she returned a bit later, clad in a towel, she saw her husband, but not the woman who was so intent on repaying their generosity.
Pablo thought she’d gone to get some more lotion. The truth was: she’d simply gone.
And when she left, she departed with things that weren’t hers. Because my friends are kindhearted souls who prefer to trust rather than doubt, they lost about $2,500 pesos in cash and a couple items of valuable jewelry, including the wide gold wedding band Maria had worn on her ring finger for more than four decades.
When the truth finally sunk in and they were over the initial shock, all my friends could do was laugh. Obviously, they were NOT happy, but they had to give high marks to the con woman who robbed them for being a true professional, skilled at engendering trust and making them feel comfortable assisting her.
«Well, it’s only material things she got,» said Maria, shaking her head at her own Pollyanna tendencies. «Do tell the story and remind others to be a little more careful than we were.»
So that’s what we’re doing here in the pages of «Destakados.» We’re most assuredly not saying this only happens here in paradise. It could happen anywhere. But sometimes when you’re having such a darn good time enjoying the laid back atmosphere of Zihuatanejo, it’s easy to let your guard down, and then the fabulous time you’d been having up until then could take a 180-degree turn for the worse.
The rules to follow are fairly simple. The problem is, they’re fairly easy to ignore. DON’T!
- When someone unfamiliar approaches you, ask a few questions of your own if that person wants help. You still might be given a line, but an inquiring attitude might make a scam artist decide there’s an easier target somewhere else.
- Except for the bathroom, never let someone you’ve just met spend time unsupervised in your home. Although you may feel like a jerk for keeping an eye on your new acquaintance, that’s better than feeling duped after you’ve been robbed.
- When someone seems TOO friendly and accommodating after just a few minutes of conversation, be wary. They may see you as an easy mark. Don’t assume everyone is as wonderful as you are, even if it makes you feel crummy at that moment.
- Don’t be afraid to say something like, «You know, you seem like a very nice person, but I’d rather get to know you a little better before welcoming you into my home. There’s a hotel down the street, and if you pay them $5 pesos, they’ll let you use their restroom.»
The bottom line here is that this is another one of those situations where one does well to remember the helpful old adage, «An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.