goldkin: goldkin tsa whuh (tsa whuh)
Tonight, I lost $2.35 on the streets of San Francisco to what was likely a professional busker.* Surprisingly, I do not regret the transaction at all; as below, it gave me the opportunity to analyze my own social vulnerabilities while paying a professional for his experience.

While returning from a late meal at 11:25PM, a lanky fellow in his late twenties or early thirties approached me wearing a heavy backpack, clean denim jeans, and a dark T-shirt. He initially asked me for bus fare, claiming that he was a lost college student, and repeatedly stating that it wasn't for drug money as he "wasn't a druggie." Despite his plea, I declined his initial request on impulse.

At this point, he thanked me for my time and left in the direction of the route 36 bus that had just appeared on Third and Market, which had just stopped on its northeasternly journey. It was empty, sans the bus driver, and he started to politely tap on the door to hail the driver without sparing a single look back towards me. It was at this point that I decided his story had a chance of being genuine; after all, he had taken many of the right steps to confirm his story and had maintained consistency after being greylisted. At this point, I figured that the cost of a potential miss at philanthropy on my psychological state was higher than the cost of his bus fare, and if I were wrong, it would still make for an excellent story.

After money changed hands, he gave me additional routing information. As the story went, he wished to take "the 30" bus to his house in Monteca, repeatedly stating that he had only been here for 7 days and didn't know any of the routes. Neither did I, but a quick search on Google confirmed the route was correct and had a timetable one block away to take him where he needed to go. At this point, I was given a profuse showing of relief and an impromptu hug (hey, this is San Francisco), and he quickly departed. I smelled no odor of any drugs on him, so at that point, I assumed he was probably clean.

In fact, I would have been completely convinced his story was genuine, until he hailed a pickup truck and could loudly be heard giving his thanks to the driver from across the intersection, plausibly for the same story.

Did I get ripped off? Probably. But it was worth it, to analyze exactly what social engineering was required to trigger compassion over the possibility of physical loss. Either way, he got paid for his trouble, and I left the transaction wiser than before.

* I initially reported $2.25, but I'd forgotten that a dime had slipped into my grasp in my rapid grab for pocket change.

October 2015

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