Parts of this story are based on actual events I experienced during a recent trip to Paris, France. It was as they say … Tres bien!
There’s nothing like the glint of a precious stone or metal in the sunlight. It is unmistakable. So when I saw the ring out of the corner of my eye, my head snapped. I am like a crow in nest building mode when it comes to shiny things. Caw caw! But, hey, aren’t we all? Even if you pride yourself as a super crunchy world-music type, you have probably given in to this urge at some time even if the diamond was just a zirc.
It didn’t really surprise me to find the ring lying there. I am after all, a finder of things — cameras, phones, wallets. You name it. Once I found a bag full of drugs and money on the streets of Oakland, but that’s a story for another time. Back to Paris, and the bridge I was crossing when I spotted the ring.
Before I could reach down to scoop it up, someone had done just that. Oh well. I’m the type who will obsess over trying to find the owner of lost things so it was a bit of a relief. One time I found an amazing digital camera near Lake Merrit and it was full of photos of this amazing looking family, but no ID. I scoured Craigslist and bulletin boards (yes it was pre-smart phone era). But to no avail. It wasn’t the camera so much – it was valuable – but those photos/1 They must have really missed them. But, again, I digress.
The woman who picked up the ring seemed delighted and a bit in awe. She was unremarkable in appearance … dressed in clothes that were less than stylish and a tad overweight for a French woman. I quickly ran though how this scenario might play out for her … pawning the ring, getting a haircut and some newer clothes. Maybe she’d just enjoy a fine, French meal, like the one I’d sprung for the night before.
“Oh lucky you!” I said. “I know!” the woman replied. “Nothing like this ever happens to me.” We started looking it over together and I could see some small marks on the inside that I imagined must be a 14k or maybe 24k gold symbol. I didn’t have my glasses on and it was rather small, so I couldn’t be completely sure.
“What do you think? Is it real?” she asked. “I said, maybe!” The woman looked rather doubtful. And at second glance, I realized she actually had very pretty eyes and a nice smile when you got up close. “Nah, that sort of thing never happens to me [I laughed]. “Besides, I don’t want to worry about finding the owner.” Seems I had her pegged wrong all along. She was just like me! And here I was making all these assumptions. I felt rather ashamed of myself for that.
“Here, you take it,”she said. “Oh no, I couldn’t!” I declared. “Please?” she asked “I don’t know what I would do with it.”
After a short time of the little “I just coooouldn’t!” dance, I relented and she gave me the ring. It felt cool and heavy in the palm of my hand. I thanked her, slipped the ring in my pocket, and resumed my trek back to the shabby little flat in the 19th. The whole time I was I was thinking about what it would be like to negotiate in a Parisian pawn shop, especially with my spotty French. And what I might order for dinner that night. I was definitely going to be celebrating.
Just before we parted she asked “Hey, is there any chance you can spare a couple of bucks?” So she was hungry. And, then it hit me. I’d been conned with a fake ring. It was a pretty good one though, wouldn’t you say? I mean the con not the ring. We bonded together over this experience of wonder and delight. We’d shared the ups and downs of possible riches coming our way. I’d felt that delicious feeling of giving and receiving a gift. It was all so well played! How could I not give her something for such a splendid performance. Besides, when this sort of thing happens in a big city – and you’re already engaged with a street level player – it’s sometimes best to just give them a few bucks and move along. And, well if you’ve ever been down and out you know what a difference a few bucks can make. But this was Paris. These were Euros. So the 5 I handed her felt like 7. And it was not enough for her! She pushed and pushed insisting that nothing decent could be had to eat in Paris for that amount, and couldn’t I just make it 10? “Ten?! I pushed back. “Yes 10!” she replied. She must have had a quota back at the con artist encampment. So I gave her the 10 and she quickly turned on her heal and was gone.
Upon returning to to my flat, my beautiful girlfriend was waiting there for me. If she sees something shiny she wants, she can generally just reach into her purse and pull out the Euros or dollars and buy it. I told her the story of the ring, handing it to her to try so she could read the tiny “jewelers mark” on the inside. Then she slipped it on her hand and declared, “mine!”. Oh the nerve! But you know beautiful women. They can be very hard to say no to. And, well it did look amazing on her petite little fingers with the perfect manicure. On me? Not so much. So I let her have it. Conned twice in one day? Sure but c’est la vie as they say. We’re on one side of a confidence or another now aren’t we?
So remember, if you’re walking home from the Eiffel Tower one day you too might become a part of some amazing street level theater. And I say go for it. It is well worth the ticket price of $10 euros or 12 bucks American!
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