February 28th, 2006 at 11:15pm
People walking around busy areas asking people for a certain amount of money, supposedly for a bus fare, whilst not looking in the least bit hard pressed for cash are not new nor rare, but they are a problem. In most cases I completely ignore these people, however one such “non-hard-pressed bus fare scammer” caught my attention today.
About 11:30 this morning I was walking to the bus stop opposite the Legislative Assembly building to catch a bus to Tuggeranong, and on the way passed one of “the regulars”, the people who seem to spend half their life wandering around asking for a bus fare and never catch a bus, this particular regular was probably the most regular, being blonde, of slim build, about 25-35 years old and about 175-180CM tall. As per usual he was asking for 40 cents for a bus fair (seemingly oblivious to the fact that a concession bus fare is $1.30 minimum in Canberra, as would be most Civic office workers who probably don’t catch a bus to or from work anyway) and bothering many many people. I avoided him and continued on my way, not paying any further attention to him or his activities.
I went to Tuggeranong, had lunch with my bus driver friend, came back into Civic and had a coffee at the previously reviewed Coffee @ Helen’s. While I was in there enjoying a flat white, the previously sighted regular bus fare scammer walked in and asked the staff if they could change some coins into a $10 note, they agreed and he spent the better half of the next minute unloading his scammed booty of 20c, 10c and 5c coins, which was then counted by the staff and exchanged for a $10 note. The bus fare scammer then walked back home, which as I know is up at the top end of Ainslie Avenue in a set of apartment blocks I seem to have forgotten the name of.
I don’t know if there is anything legally wrong with this situation, but there is certainly something morally and ethically wrong with it. I spent some of the afternoon pondering the question of whether I should have intervened and pointed out that he had scammed at least 25 people to gain the amazing quantity of silver coins. Maybe I should have, but I tend to see, or at least pass this person once or twice a week, and would be in fear of my own safety if I had taken that course of action. Of course, it would have been nice to, at that moment, have been a Today Tonight reporter who had been following the scammers activities all day, and then pounced when he tried to convert his illgotten mini-fotune into a plastic note. There would have been an element of satisfaction in catching him red-handed, alas it was not to be, and I am left pindering the legal, moral and ethical ramifications of the situation.
I suppose I should summarise this by advising you not to give 40c “bus money” to someone in Civic who is blonde, of slim build, about 25-35 years old and about 175-180CM tall. That’s probably the best advice I can give you.