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The Art Of A Con

Of Imagine Dragons

Yea you a natural
A beating heart of stone
You gotta be so cold
To survive in this world…

When I first heard this song I thought it rather edgy; the funky beats and hardened lyrics made me rule it out from my playlist, well until today.

With the corona virus sending everyone into panic mode, thieves have devised new means to fatten their pockets and meet their daily needs. Just the other day I heard of the “mask trick” where some goons entice you with a cheap durable mask which they spray in advance with some sort of sleeping drug.

After you momentarily “fall asleep” they rob you mercilessly to a point of stealing back the mask, yes it is that brutal. This is just one of the many ways people out here are taking advantage of the pandemic.

Personally, I have been diagnosed with a fatal illness known as topographical agnostic which basically means I have no sense of direction. Usually I end up being chaperoned with my friends but this time luck struck out and I wound up travelling to the big city, alone.

From a young age I have been trained to fear the city. I mean who wouldn’t especially after watching Nairobi half life?

So there I was, hair tussled by the windy atmosphere, lipstick smudged from the heat inside the matatu, eyes darting outside the diverse windows, a humongous bag perched on my lap and my hands fighting the feral desire of touching my face. The driver ended up admitting defeat to the small jam along the nyamakima stage and left us close enough, the thing is to me it was not close at all.

Since I had heard awful tales of phones being snatched in the busy streets, I pocketed mine hastily and decided to rely on good old inquiry, yes I know, I should have taken my chances with a pickpocket instead.

My first director was kind and very elaborate. He was an elderly man with a platinum beard and squinty eyes. He had excellent swahili and kept smacking his lips after every sentence. I soon thanked him and with a tip of the hat, he let me go on my way.

Now I don’t know how effective this advice is but I always abide by it. When in town with luggage walk fast. I am really good at fast, so good that within minutes I had reached Haile Selasse street.

I reached a round about and suddenly felt the urge to ask whether I was on the right track so I swept my eyes in the vicinity and decided to approach a man who seemed equally as lost. Turns out my hunch was right, he was busy trying to interpret his Google map.

Yes, I know, why didn’t I employ the same skill? It did occur to me but then I swiftly chased the thought away. The man gave me an irritated look but still managed a few words and once again I was on my way. Now, good con artists, as I have learnt from movies, always come off as somehow forceful during the act.

They will try to dig in for information as subtly as they can while assessing what it is they might take from you. Excellent con artists on the other hand are quite patient. In fact these people are the most inviting, sweetest and most helpful looking people on earth.

Since the irritated guy gave me flimsy directions I was back at hunting for a new director. Fortunately for me there was a guy in front of me talking loudly via earphones. He had a robust voice, confident dare I say charismatic.

He seemed older though, somewhere in his late twenties. He mentioned meeting a friend at archives and a bulb went on in my head. I decided to stalk him. Ha! Suck it direction illness!

As I was celebrating my minor victory, the guy approached me with a widened smile. I gave a small one back hoping he wasn’t planning on calling the cops on me for my stalking demeanor.

Minutes later the guy had given me his life story and ambitions. Of course in my head I was screaming “TMI” but I was grateful for a chaperone so I intently listened. With time I grew comfortable, a little trust brew in. I even started swinging my hands back and forth instead of clinging onto my bag pack.

I don’t know how but an hour later I was still nowhere near archives. Instead I had gone for an uptown tour of UON, KBC, KNT, K24, Norfolk, Hilton and Valentine’s school of cake.

As much as I was enjoying the tour and endless stories, my feet were beginning to wail and my gigantic bag began weighing me down. He soon noticed this and offered to off load me but I kindly declined, the familiar fear creeping back in.

I almost went on full panic mode when he began to explain that his phone had a cracked screen so he couldn’t feed numbers. My panic began to dwindle when he vividly expressed his fear of borrowing and firmly stated that he would never borrow from anyone. Instead of borrowing he preferred soldiering on to seek an alternative. Little did I know this was reverse psychology.

He beckoned for me to await him as he took his phone to be fixed, I obliged. Of course there was the gnawing feeling of, what if he doesn’t come back or what if he does come back with a group of mask trick goons? But I swatted them away, not every one is cold hearted.

He reemerged moments later with his sanguine smile and sluggish walk. Relief washed over me as he led the way. I followed him, awaiting his usual stories but none came my way. I asked him whether things went alright and he shook his head, a sad look taking over his features swiftly.

He explained that he needed the number he had given me, it was urgent. He wondered if he could borrow my phone for a bit, just to transfer that number to his phone before we part ways. He would be out in a jiffy.

I bit my lip and considered my options. I mean sure he had completely elongated my route to afya centre but he had insisted that it would be helpful in terms of retracing.

He had also told me about the death of his parents, told me about his amazing and successful siblings who had raised him. I mean a lawyer and a police escort? Surely he couldn’t be a con artist. So I bobbed my head and have him a small smile then told him to show the way.

Here is the tricky part, the guy outright refuted my company. He said it would only take a second, in and out. I shook my head and firmly told him that where my phone goes, I go. After my obvious discomfort, a tantrum followed.

Apparently I was ungrateful and didn’t trust him. Apparently I was the last person he would ever help in his entire life. Apparently the world was cruel.

That was a red flag that even I couldn’t surpass so that’s how I turned on my heel and walked away, more like trotted okay so I ran.

I soon noticed a shifty bloke ahead of me. He kept turning from time to time so I decided to make a phone call as I loudly announced that the person I was calling was my father, a known cop.

I swiftly located a fast food ahead and ducked in for cover. At least there was security at the place so they couldn’t finish the job (comforting thoughts). Those security guards will never know they salvaged me from a merciless robbery.

Guess now I have to be a natural huh?

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