Tuesday, October 21, 2008



I stayed a bit late at work this evening to get some database work done in peace and quiet., No ringing phones, no colleagues, just me, an import file and Raiser's Edge. And Annie Mac's special drum and bass edition of The Mash Up on the BBC iplayer.

Imports done, I headed off home. Just outside work skirting round the edge of the now-closed square I pass a phonebox. There was a little group of three men nearby, and one approached me. With my earphones in, I didn't hear what he said, and so stopped to uncork an ear.
I'm really sorry to trouble you like this, but I was just wondering do you have any change for the phone? I've got a pound, but I need 40p.
I'm sure the phone would have accepted his pound coin. I assumed this was the usual scam where you get asked for a small amount of money for the penniless person who needs "just 10p" to get the bus/train/aardvark home, and then when you get your wallet out, you're either asked for much more, or the previously exhausted individual suddenly perks up and runs away very quickly with your wallet. Usually though it's one weedy-looking girl, and not three scruffy Irishmen with a slight whiff of booze about one of them.
Sorry, I've got no change.
Just 40p? That's all I'm asking
I've got nothing, I'm really sorry.
At which point I started to move away
We need your help. We've been in a car accident and I need to call my lawyer.
Top marks for originality, but I was struggling to believe that this man had a legal adviser who would be contactable at gone twenty past eight in the evening. And if you've been in a road traffic collision, I always thought it more usual to contact the police and ambulance service in the first instance. They didn't look like car crash survivors either.
At this point it all got a little less friendly. Beery-smelling mate joined in.
Come on, don't lie to me, you must have something.
Sorry mate, I've nothing on me. I'm really sorry.
Don't lie! You shouldn't lie.
At which point my efforts to walk off were met with a firm hand in the chest. Not a punch, but I definitely wasn't going anywhere without his say-so. My pulse quickened.
I've told you, I've no cash on me. I'm sorry I can't help you.
I don't know whether he'd been taken in by my repeated protestations of living a cashless existence, but my original inquisitor stopped him and moved him out of the way.
You don't have anything?
No, sorry
By this point, I was walking away, to better-lit area, as fast as I could calmly and unhurriedly do so.

And that is how I may have been very nearly mugged. If I had gone to my pocket, would I have been relieved of my wallet? Punched over the head and had everything of value removed from my person? Or was I genuinely refusing to help three people who needed the help of a stranger to get legal counsel and get home safely?Given the number of heroin addicts who frequent the area, probably not.

What got me though was the sheer ineptitude of it all. If they were trying a confidence scam by appealing to my inner good samaritan, they failed on their plausibility. If they were really trying to rob me, they gave up far too easily - I was shorter and lighter than all of them, and they could quite easily have caused my face to resemble a plate of minced beef with about twenty seconds' work.

With this in mind, I present David's top tips for conducting a muggingIf you follow three or more of these tips, and still walk away empty-handed, then you're probably very thick. Maybe you should consider regular employment - many jobs today require minimal training and next to no intelligence, and yet the rewards can be massive. Have you considered a career in the City?

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