The first time, I was 20, broke, working part-time jobs while going to school. A guy started a conversation with me about my car while I was filling it up at the gas station. He used to have one like it he said, and he loved it. Mine was an '85 Caprice Classic with paint peeling off and only one door that opened from the outside and I drove it kind of ironically but OK, it's easy to fall into the predictable rhythms of those "guy" conversations so I talked to him and his bad haircut for two minutes about cars and engines. He drew out of me that I was in college studying English and said something like, "Oh, that's really fortunate for me, because for the business I'm starting I really need a few smart people who can write. There's a real opportunity to make some good money. Are you interested in marketing?"
I'm always looking for extra money and somehow this doughy little fellow in acid wash jeans and a sweater had managed to flatter me into thinking I had something special to offer his business. I met him the next day at a diner and two minutes into the conversation my gullibility wore off abruptly and I stopped him.
"This is about Amway, isn't it."
You could see by his face, he knew he had lost me, so with a Yeah, you got me, hang-dog sort of an air he smiled weakly and paid the check. He didn't have much choice because I had stood up and walked away from the table. I generally try to err on the side of being more polite than less, but I hate having my time wasted. I know me, so I'm sure I at least said "Thanks for the coffee."
That time, that particular pyramid marketer got me into that situation by playing off how broke I was, and also through what would be some surprisingly deft flattery were it not simply an Amway training technique. I wanted to think of myself as being smart and a writer and creative and obviously, they're taught how to draw those things out and then play off of them.
So he conned a complete stranger. But ten years later when it happened again, this time when I was driving a three-year-old car with no scratches and all working doors that I had leased new, and working at the corporate headquarters of a big company, as an actual writer, it was because somebody I knew abused my relationship and my trust...
(There will be a Part 2 if anyone cares to read it when I have time to finish. For now it's back to writing boring shit about toothpaste and toilet paper.)