Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Do I look gullible?

Written 8 March:
Am spending the day at Rome Airport, no fun at all. OK I have a day-room at Hilton Hotel so at least I have somewhere to rest. However: the room is nice and designed and so on but NOTHING comes with it, not even a bottle of water. Or internet access. Tea and coffe, end of story. And the prices for food in their restos are so mad I simply walked over to the airport to get a bite.

Coming fresh from the very friendly Tirana where my room included hi-speed internet it feels a bit weird that the supposedly "first-world" Italy and fancy Hilton can not offer that. Never mind.

Sadly I can never really sleep during daytime unless I am exhausted so I just rest, read and try to relax. My flight for Addis Abeba leaves at 1.15 in the night so I have time on my hands.

I guess I should have gone into Rome as I have never been there but all stories I have heard (and what I have seen so far) have led me to suspect I likely would not have been back on time or without any money left.

Most of the time when I get stopped by police on the road in my various criss-crossing travels of southern or eastern Africa I have no problems and get "let off the hook" quite easily. I have attributed it to a certain easygoing attitude combined with patience but maybe I just look "too daft or gullible" and they sort of feel sorry for me?

This thinking is because 2 times in a couple of hours I was hit on by conmen here at the airport. Guy nr 2 I can not prove (I can not PROVE nr 1 either but if I am wrong I will be more than surprised) however as I walked away from him.

Guy number 1 I meet in the long tunnel from airport to hotel. Conversation goes a something like this:
"Excuse me sir do you speak English" - this in a very to me UK-sounding accent
"yes I do why"?
"Well I have just missed my flight and need to call my brother in UK to ask for help. Would you have 3 Euro to help me make a call"?
"No but you can use my phone"
"Well he has to call me back with a booking number so I want to use one of the payphones that has a number on it"
OK I give the guy a coin I happen to have and even as I walk away from it I suspect it was a con.

That was underlined by the fact that I see the same guy 2 more times in the next hour in the same tunnel... and he is still there when I go for check-in another 5-6 hours later.

Next one gets on me when I am buying something to eat, with one of those almost incomprehensible English dialects. A long story unwinds of how he has driven down from UK and lost everything, now has to wait the whole day at the airport. Had to give taxi driver wedding ring, watch, overcoat. I leave him before I hear the end of the story.

So in other words - do I look like a con target, soft and naive? A question for me to ponder, you don't have to comment or answer.

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