Incident on Pope’s Island

Carol and I were driving along Route 6 back from the supermarket in Fairhaven. The swing bridge was closing to traffic just as we got to the Dunkin Donuts on Pope’s Island, so we stopped and sipped some decaf until the traffic started moving again.

Carol backed her car out of the parking place, and was just about to put it in gear when we heard a faint voice: “Wait! Wait!” A young woman was running towards us from a green pickup truck parked in front of Dunkin’s — I say she was running, but it looked like she had on high heels under her jeans, so she didn’t move very fast. Carol rolled down the driver’s side window.

“Hi, we were in Dunkin’s and they declined my credit card when we tried to buy coffee,” said the girl breathlessly. She had a low throaty voice, as if she smoked a lot. “And we’re out of gas, and…”

Carol stopped her, speaking in a matter-of-fact tone: “You don’t understand. We live in New Bedford and we get scammed all the time for money.”

“Oh, but I live in Fairhaven,” the girl said.

“Yeah, but that’s not the point,” said Carol. “We hear this kind of thing all the time here.”

“Oh,” said the girl. “I’m new to Fairhaven. I just moved in with my boyfriend,” she went on, “it’s my dad’s business credit card, and I don’t know why it got declined. We’re puttering along on fumes, and we have to get back to Fairhaven.”

“You’re not going to be able to buy gas here anyway,” Carol pointed out. “All the gas stations near here are closed now. The nearest gas stations are going to be back in Fairhaven.”

That stopped the girl for a moment. I bent down so I could see her face and said, “Do you have a Triple-A card? because they’ll come out with a gallon of gas for you.”

She looked at me and smiled crookedly. “No, I wanted to get one, but my boyfriend didn’t want one.”

“You’re not going to be able to buy gas here anyway,” Carol said again.

“I guess we could call my boyfriend’s mother,” the girl said.

“Good luck,” said Carol, rolling up her window.

We drove away. “It sounded like a scam, but I wonder,” she said.

We passed Fish Island Gas Station, which was closed and dark. “It sounded like a scam to me,” I said. “I’ll bet she saw us walking to the car, assumed I was driving, and thought she’d show a little cleavage and convince me to give her some money.” Which was a pretty cynical thing to say.

“She had on a lot of make-up,” said Carol, thinking out loud. “but her hair was a little stringy as if she hadn’t washed it today. Her looks were good enough that she didn’t need all the make-up.” We passed the exit to Route 18, and went up the S-curve into downtown New Bedford. “All the details she gave us made me think maybe it wasn’t a scam.”

“Maybe, but the con artists who come to the church always give lots of details,” I said. “Besides, even if she wasn’t trying to scam us, that’s not something serious enough to ask for money from strangers. They can call someone they know. They have to take some responsibility for their life.”

“But someday something could happen that’s serious enough that you do need to ask for help,” Carol said.

“That’s true,” I said. “Anyway, we treated her with respect.” There’s a good chance the girl was honest, but it sounded too much like the scams we hear day after day — Could you give me ten dollars for a bus ticket to Boston? We’re driving to ——— and ran out of gas, could you give us twenty dollars to buy gas to get out of New Bedford? — and then the same exact people come back a month later with the same exact story all over again.

The traffic light at the intersection of Route 6 and Pleasant Street was green for once, and we sailed through it and turned onto North Sixth, then left on William Street. By the time we passed City Hall, we were talking about something else.

2 thoughts on “Incident on Pope’s Island

  1. Owen

    Jean gives people money about half the time. She tries to make an educated guess about who is honest and who isn’t. She thinks, because she’s a nonfiction writer, that the people who give lots of details in the heat of the moment are really lying. If you’re really desperate, you’re kind of in a fog. Details don’t come out so well. Not until later. This is where she tells me about Wordsworth: “Emotion recollected in tranquility,” she says. I think I get that. It’s like me on the couch at the end of the day, thinking about fetch. When I’m in the middle of it, all I want is the ball; at the end of the day, I can see all the details — the ball flying out of Jean’s hand, the snow on the roof, the ball in the sky, the squirrel on the roof, the ball coming toward me. You know.

    So I think Carol was right: too many details. Besides, she should know. She’s a journalist.

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