Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
148Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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Driving back from the Intermarché, Alabama 3 full blast 'Hypo full of love', I see a car across the road, stranded and what seemed like a woman half hanging out of it. A young man was frantically trying to flag down passing cars. I slowed down, hoping the car approaching the scene would stop - my French not up to emergencies - it didn't.
The situation looked grim, I had my mobiles with me for once, I could not but turn back and offer help.
The man came running towards me, arms flailing, oh god, what was I letting myself in for?
I wound down the window, the man almost collapsed to the car, hanging on to the window frame, gasping for air.
He was out of petrol.
Relieved I said: 'Alright, no big deal, jump in, I drive you to the nearest gas station.
No. He couldn't use his card, had no money at all, in fact.
The baby needed food.
It was all so terrible.
Hmm, so where was he heading for, how much did he need? Paris. That's more than 500 km from here. He surely didn't expect me to fork that out?
I had an idea. I'd drop them off at the gendarmes, see what they could do. 'No, no, no police, please, I'm not French.' No, I'd noticed he was a gypsy, and I had been warned, but refused to be prejudiced.
Money, though, was obviously the issue here. He kept thrusting a signet ring at me, take it, take it please, 18 karats gold, on and on he went, confusing me.
What about the baby? The woman was standing outside the car now, a sudden resurrection, with a bundle of something in her arms.
I suppose by now I realized I was being had, but I didn't want to be had. I wanted to be the knight in shining armor and anyway, I didn't know how to back out gracefully or any other way.
I decided to give them some money and be done.
It was accepted with a great show of thankfulness and I almost thought I'd got away without too much damage. The gipsy made as if to turn to his accomplice then swivelled back, imploring me for more money, handing me the ring I'd refused over and over again, slightly menacing.
More than just uncomfortable now, I felt I was at their mercy. I grabbed some notes, stuffed them in his hand, got into the car and drove off fast as I could.
In my rear mirror I saw the man walking backwards to his car, hands folded as in prayer, bowing in mock gratitude.
On the way home I tried to work out some feasible story for Peter and Mieke but somehow I couldn't recall exactly what had happened.
Had I been hypnotized?
Leaving the car I see the ring on the passengers seat, pick it up tentatively and look at it for the first time. It has a stamp inside. I don't know the first thing about jewelry, but it looked real.
I didn't want it, ill-gotten, nasty thing. Maybe it was stolen, why else would he so readily want to part with it? I was going to hand it over to the police, wanted nothing to do with it.
I try to compose myself, take a deep breath before going inside to own up to my stupidness.
Halfway through my story, Peter interrupts me with a: 'Yeah, cut the crap, let's see the ring now.'
I was astounded, I hadn't got to that part yet, was he psychic?
'How do you know?' I stammered.
' Jacques came round the other day, shamefaced, a what turned out to be worthless ring in his hand - he'd been conned - just like you.'
'So just keep going next time, please.'
And I think about it and I know already I'll stop again, and again.
So what if I'm gullible? What else can you do?
What would you have done?