If you live in Baltimore, you have to be street smart (or any other urban city for that matter). People are constantly testing you, so you have to watch yourself. And in my opinion, I think you have to apply this type good judgement to your life anywhere you live. It’s a form of social protection.
A lot of people ask, “Well, what is street smart? Well, according to the webster’s dictionary, Streetsmart simply means, having the shrewd awareness, experience, and resourcefulness needed for survival in a difficult, often dangerous urban environment. You can learn how to be book smart, but being street smart is a different kind of intelligence. No one learns how to be street smart in the classroom. You won’t become street savvy while sitting at your computer and reading this article. Going through certain situations, and being confronted by different kinds of people, all make you street smart.
“Living in the city requires just as much survivals skills (if not more) as living in the jungle.”
The most important thing to master when it comes to being street smart, is to spot a con artist when you see one. What does the average con artist look like? Despite what you may think, he or she isn’t always a shady-looking character. They can range from the homeless bums down the street, the neighbor, the church member, the guy with the suit and tie, or the mother with five kids. Basically, there’s no look. That’s why you can’t necessarily go by the looks. You have to carefully pay attention to what comes out of their mouth. They will say and do things that don’t make sense to the wise, and sometimes they will use extreme flattery.
There is a difference between compliments and flattery. Compliments are sincere and unselfish, while flattery is exaggerated, sometimes a complete lie, told with the intention of selfish gain. The flatterer is seeking a favor of some kind; He only has his own desires in mind. If the person is deceptive enough, it may be difficult to tell the difference. They will use it to make you feel appreciated, listened to, and cared about. Never accept flattery from a stranger’s tongue. These people are often quite good at picking up on people’s interests, beliefs and preferences solely for the purpose of pretending to have these things in common.
Con Artists will spot that weakness in you so fast, and use it for their OWN benefit — They know who they can con, and who they can’t. They’re looking for that loneliness, insecurity, poor health or simple ignorance. The only thing more important to a con artist than perfecting a con is perfecting a total lack of conscience.
“What Slicksters Fail To Realize Is, Intuitivity Beats Weak Ass Psychology!”
Besides wheeling and dealing in the streets during my younger days, being an observer and being intuitive really gave me the advantage of being street smart.
“The smart can play dumb, but the dumb can’t play smart.”
I grew up around con artists, and I’d listen to their words very carefully. Words don’t come in one of my ears and go out the other. When words go in both of my ears, it’s stuck in my brain forever, and analyzed until exhaustion.
Air Force 1’s on Sale!!
“ The most street-wise person can be conned. Sometimes you take a lost, but it’s a lesson learned.”
As a teen, I was at the mall one day shopping for some new sneakers. I went to every store looking for these particular shoes, but they were sold out. As I was walking out of the mall, this man approached me and said, “I have some sneakers for sale ma!” I asked, “Well, what kind of sneakers are they?” He pulled the box out of the bag and opened it. They were the same exact sneakers I was looking for, and they were my size, which were an 8. I was so excited, I quickly asked, “How much do you want for them?” He said, “I’ll give them to you for fifty dollars.”
“People have been buying them up really fast, and these are the last pair. They’ll look nice on you too. Get them while they’re hott!”
I felt so lucky at that point. I felt like our interaction was God sent because the sneakers were retailed at $75 in the store. I quickly said, “I’ll take them!”
As soon as I arrived home, I ran to my brother’s room to show them my new sneakers. I was so excited, I stood right in front of the television while they were playing the video game. They were mad as hell. I said, “Man, yall would not believe this! I bought a pair of Air Force 1’s for only fifty bucks at the mall today. They were sold out in the stores, but this guy was in the mall selling a pair.”
They paused the game, and put their controllers down…..
“Well, let me see them?” asked one of my brothers.
I pulled out the box and placed it on the bed.
All three of us slowly huddled over the box, as I slowly revealed these crisp white Air Force Ones with the clear white bubble gum soles. It was almost as if the whole box was glowing. We didn’t blink one second.
“Try them on.” said my other brother.
“Yea, you’re right. Let me try these on.” I said. (smiling from ear to ear)
I put on the first shoe, and my feet slid right in. It was so comfortable. I was looking at my brothers and leaning my shoe to the side like, “How does it look? How does it look!” They shook their heads with approval.
I put my hand in the box to grab the other shoe, and quickly put it on. For some odd reason, my feet felt soooo tight.
I said, “Oh shit, I left the tissue paper in here (laughing).”
I took the shoe off, but there wasn’t any tissue in the shoe. I began to scratch my head. I’m like, “Why the hell is this shoe so damn tight?”
I looked at the box, and it read size 8. I said, “Ok, it’s the right size.” I put my feet back in the shoe and shook my head like, “Something isn’t right!” I became so confused and frustrated.
My brothers were sitting there, anxiously waiting for me to put on the other shoe so they can continue their Mortal Kombat Game.
I took the shoe back off and looked at the inside of the tongue…everything just went in slow motion at this point…..like my whole life just crumbled.
“WHAAAAAT THE FUUUUUUUCK!”.
“What??” My brothers asked.
“I’ve Been Conned!”
“IT’S A FUUUCKING 6 ½!”
“A 6 ½?” They asked.
(It became silent for five seconds)
My brothers looked at each other, and burst out laughing (They were on the floor in tears)
As I heard laughter in the background, I looked at the shoe like it was an angry chihuahua who just bit me……..At that particular moment, I body slammed it like it was a UFC fight.
I said, “Tomorrow, I’m going BACK to the mall, and I’m looking for that man! I WANT my money back!”
“That man is long gone. Plus, all slicksters look alike.” (As my brother laughed)
“What am I going to do with a size 8 and a size 6 ½ box of shoes?” I said.
“Let me try them on.” Said my brother.
(He put his feet in both shoes)
“They fit ok. I’ll buy them from you!”
“How much?” I asked.
“I’ll give you forty.” My brother said.
“Ok, I’ll take forty.” I said,
My brother was so happy. He said, I’m wearing these to school tomorrow!”
The Next Morning……..
My brother came into my room and asked, “How do I look?”
I sat up in bed, and noticed his nice outfit, then I looked at his feet. He had the Air Force One’s on, but he looked a bit bowlegged. I tried to wipe the crust from my eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing anything.
He walked towards my bed with this walk that almost resembled the George Jefferson walk. Then he yelled, “I’m going to kill them at school today. I love these shoes!” Then he walked out of my room with the same George Jefferson walk.
As I dropped him off at school that morning, I caught him walking in the building with that same George Jefferson walk he portrayed in my bedroom that morning. I just smiled, shook my head and pulled off.
“Where is my brother?” I asked myself, as I watched hundreds of kids leave the building. “School let out at 2:45, and it’s already 3:15!”
(I usually park down the street, since there’s so much traffic in front of the school building.)
I started the car up, and drove around the front of the school for the second time. As I pulled up closer, I noticed this boy limping with a pair of white shoes in his hands. He looked as if he just ran from a gang of school bullies. I rolled the window down and said, “Get in the car.” He stopped, rolled his eyes, and quickly hopped in the car.”
“Your feet hurt?” I asked.
(He was just sitting in the passenger seat, very quiet, with flared nostrils)
A few seconds later he was like, “HELL YEA MY FEET HURT!!!”
(I started laughing as he put his feet on the dashboard and started rubbing it)
“Let’s go to the mall right now! We’re going to look for this motherfucker and get our money back!”
I said, “That man is long gone. Plus, all slicksters look alike.” (As I laughed)
“You know what?” He said. “Pull over!”
“Yessss, Pull over!”
He rolled the window down and threw the sneakers out of the window.
“To Hell With These Shoes!” He said.
This incident was a lesson learned. I’ve been conned plenty of times. Online and offline. And through my experiences,I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions and look at things very carefully. Check yo shit.
“You have got to stop associating with these con artists!”
I’ve always had this deep connection to con artists. They were intrigued by me, and often I was intrigued by them. Personally, I never was the type to con people because it’ll give me a guilty conscience, but I often associated with a lot of con artists. I usually sat back and watched them work. I just loved their work ethic. To be honest, they get shit done, and they have the gift of gab. And no matter what, they always would look out for me. I never had to come out of my pocket hanging with con artists. I learned so much by associating with them, and it has helped me in business tremendously. They can be very intelligent, charming and persuasive.
I used to hang out with this one woman, and she would play the middle man and move thousands of dollars from one hand to another without one red cent in her pocket. That was amazing to me!
Three years ago, my grandmother said, “You have got to stop associating with these con artists!” I said, “But, they don’t con me, so what’s the problem?” She responded, “Bad association spoils character Tiearra!”
SN: My grandmother can’t stand con artists; Especially old ones. She said she never liked con artists because she had to work hard for everything she has, so she don’t like when people use other people to get over on. I agree 100%
I wonder if that’s one of the reasons why she never gave money to the homeless. She always say,
“ If you’re the slickster, then I must be the sucker, so I can’t deal with you!”
Back to the Story………
“I know that, but these are my friends! They always look out for me. They always have my back. I can’t say that about a lot of people!”
(I ignored my grandmother and continued to associate with these individuals)
That same night, my friend hops in my car with a red Salvation Army kettle. You know, those things they collect change with during the holidays at Walmart with that annoying bell. Yea, one of those!
I asked, “Where the hell did you get a Salvation Army Kettle from?”
“A friend gave it to me.” She said. Now, let’s go cash this in and get a steak dinner.”
A week later, I went to Old Navy with the same friend and her daughter. I tried on a few outfits, and purchased the items I liked. I waited for my friend for an hour, as she tried on dozens of outfits. Her daughter asked, “Ma, can we go now? I have to go to the bathroom”
She responded, “Just a minute baby ok?”
“You know what?” I said. “I’ll take her to the bathroom, and we’ll wait for you in the car.”
“Ok” she said.
Ten minutes later, she hops in the car with nothing.
“You didn’t find anything?” I asked.
“Oh, I found a lot!” she responded.
She opened her jacket, and counted several shirts she stole from Old Navy.
“Take your clothes back tomorrow and get a refund.” She said. “We can split these.”
I looked in my rear view mirror, and noticed her daughter’s face. Even as a young child, she had this sense of shame on her face, and embarrassment.
Later that night, the situation ate me up so bad. I kept having visions of her daughter’s face in my car.
In 2011, I cut my best friend off after 11 years. It was a tough thing to do, but I couldn’t be associated with that kind of behavior anymore.
“Associating with a bad person is like sleeping in the midst of knives and swords—even if you have not been wounded, you are constantly afraid.” (chinese proverb)
“Everyone Uses Everyone, But I’m Striving To Say No Thank You!”
My 2015 did not start off too well. I have been arguing with my grandmother since Christmas, and it has made me physically and mentally weak. This is the most we’ve argued in a year. And I rarely argue because I hate arguing. I only argue with argumentative people because I like to get my point across. I want them to understand where I’m coming from.
I swear, if there were two of me in a room, there would never be an argument lol.
[My Grandmother] You’re a user, You’re a con artist!
[Me] So…….I’m a con artist because I present helping opportunities to people or accept helping opportunities from people?
[My Grandmother] You can’t use other people!
[Me] The people who I mainly help, you initiated that! You decided to help me, help my other grandmother, you decided to assist me in helping my godchildren. If you don’t want to help me help my godsons, my other grandmother, or myself then you have every right to say so. But don’t call me a user in a bad way when you get upset with me, and we argue. You didn’t call me a user then.
I never put a gun to your head or anyone else’s head and say “You need to help me, help someone!” I present the helping opportunity to you, and you have every right to say yes or no. And most times, you voluntarily offer, so I don’t even have to ask. But I’m called a user? Well, I guess I’m a good user. I call it leverage. Using the resources and people I have to make things better. For myself and others. Don’t nonprofits use people to help other people? Entrepreneurs use other people to start their businesses.
Blessings come in all forms. You are my blessing!! And I am blessed to bless others. You don’t even realize that!
[My Grandmother] Well, I don’t want to realize that, and I don’t want to be the blessing!
[Me] Well, it isn’t your choice.
[My Grandmother] It is my choice!
[Me] Not really. You are psychologically trying to change who you are. You love to help people. You are a generous person. And sometimes your generosity can be viewed as enabling.
[My Grandmother] Grandmothers are supposed to do for their grandchildren!
[Me] I understand that, but YOU built this type of relationship we have! Not me! And you’re going to fully put the blame on me? But you don’t want to blame yourself?
[My Grandmother] Well, when I offer you something, say no thank you.
[Me] So you’re going to tell me to say, “No thank you” When you offer me stuff? Knowing that it’s a blessing for me because without your offering, I wouldn’t be able to do for myself, or others? That doesn’t make sense. See I know your weakness, but you don’t think you have any weaknesses. You don’t even want to face your own obsession of being an enabler, so you want me to help you. Well, right now, I can’t help you! I can’t say no thank you because I know I need that blessing right now. Everyday, I am striving to say, “NO THANK YOU!” All I can do is try to get myself together financially, and do for myself. To finally say ‘No thank you” for me, not for you! And you, know what? I don’t want to help you with your obsession. You have to do that on your own. If you think your obsession of enabling me is hurting you that bad, well maybe you need to stop offering. Because I’m not going to stop accepting your offering if I need it. You are someone who I love and trust, so why would I say no thank you. You’re the main one to say, don’t block your blessings. So why would I do that? That would stop me from improving myself and helping others improve themselves.
[My Grandmother] The only reason why I think you help people is for your own needs. I think you feel this need to be validated.
[Me] Wow! Really? If that were the case, I would be helping everyone on the corner! It’s in my heart to help!! I worry too much about people! So why wouldn’t I help? You taught me to be a good servant and do until others. I’ve watched you help others growing up. You’re the one who gives money to the trash men, and the mail woman. You’re the one who pick up every church member in the church. You’re the one who feel like you have to give EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY! So are you doing it as validation?
[My Grandmother] No.
[Me] So, how could you say that about me? It has nothing to do with me!
[My Grandmother] And the nerve of you to use your aunt! She already has enough on her plate, and you’re going to use her and have your godson stay at her house to go to school!
[Me] Ok, I’m going to break this down for you because you don’t seem to understand. SHE BROUGHT UP THE IDEA, NOT ME! And do you know what I said to her? I said, I’d rather have my godson living with me and going to a better school! I told her I am striving to be financially independent, so once he reaches middle school, I would have my OWN place for him to stay. And auntie said, “Ok, since he’s in the 5th now, than it looks like you have a year to get yourself together. I said, “I know!” Then she said, “Well, if you don’t have yourself together within a year, he can still live with me as a second option.”
And after that I said, “Thank you.” And she said, “No problem, I know you want him to be in a better school where he’s challenged academically. I know that’s very important to you, and it’s very important to me.” She said, “Call his mom, and discuss everything with her. Then we’ll both have a sit down with her.” I said, “Ok, and that’s exactly what I did.” So I don’t understand how I used her. If I did, it was a good type of using that’ll change my godson’s life. And he’s already been accepted into a magnet school in the city, so he don’t even need to live with her anymore. It was just an option.
[My Grandmother] And you didn’t feel the need to move out there with him while he went to school.
[Me] I cannot move out there with him! That’s 45 mins away in another county! I have to take care of my other grandmother. You know that. So what? I’m just going to decline her offer because I can’t stay out auntie house with him? And just let him go to one of the worst middle schools in the city? That doesn’t make sense. No, I’m going to accept her offer. He’s known auntie since he was three. It’s not like he’s moving in with a stranger. His parents agreed, and he was excited to go!
[My Grandmother] All I’m saying is that you can’t use people. And it seems like you pick and choose who you want to help.
[Me] lol This is crazy! What are you talking about I pick and choose? Family comes first before anyone.
[My Grandmother] You don’t feel the need to help me.
[Me] That is not true! You may not have dementia like my other grandmother, but I HELP YOU! I help you enjoy your golden years. And to be quite honest, you use me and other people. When your friends complain about their arthritis, you come to me! I’m usually writing, but I stop what I’m doing to spend time with you. I’m the one who’s your social partner. I go to dozens of shops with you, eat at restaurants with you, help out at the church, bring your groceries in. I’m your handyman! And I hate putting stuff together! You got me moving in new furniture every week. Do you know how much muscle mass I have gained by helping you? The few times you had to go to the emergency room, I was the one who was there! So, what are you talking about?
[My Grandmother] I don’t need you Tiearra. I could get a stranger to do for me. You think just because you’re doing all of this stuff, it makes you a good person, it doesn’t. You’re only helping me because you live with me.
[Me] I don’t care if I lived in Iceland, I will hop on a plane to be there for you. And for you to not know that about me, then you really don’t know me. Like you said “Grandmothers are supposed to do for their grandchildren, well I believe that Grandchildren are supposed to do for their grandparents. And for you to value a stranger over your own granddaughter? I don’t get that at all. You will always have your assumptions about me. There’s nothing I can do about that. You can continue to say I have mental health issues because I don’t want to work a job, You can continue to call me a user, a con artist, a dummy, whatever! I know my heart! And I know my purpose in life! And it’s sad that you don’t even want to admit that you appreciate my presence. Not even a little bit. But I know you do because people tell me that you only speak good things about me. But why are you so afraid to tell ME?
[My Grandmother] It’s not my job to speak good things about you Tiearra!
[Me] Oh, but it’s your job to speak bad things about me? And for you to say I don’t make any sacrifices is not true. I’ve sacrificed my life for you, my other grandmother, my godsons and nephews, my siblings, and others who I love.
[My Grandmother] Well, I don’t want my grand kids making sacrifices for me because the first thing they’ll say is, “I didn’t live my life because I had to take care of my grandmother!”
[Me] Well, I’m doing that now, and I’m not complaining. I’m still working my gift, so I’m hitting two birds with one stone. When it’s time for me to move, then it’ll be that time. We are each other’s blessing. I just want you to realize that!
“At the end of the day, I’m at peace because my intentions are good and my heart is pure. “
11 Things I’ve learned Dealing with Con Artists:
- The reason why anyone can be conned, even people who are usually discerning, is that our brains quite easily fall into what’s known as the “Trust Trap.”
Each of our brains are guided by a hormone called oxytocin in matters of trust. The hormone works something like an on-off switch, in that we’re usually able to determine whether or not trust is warranted in a given situation. Generally that system works well, but when someone games the system by outwardly mimicking trust, thus inducing an oxytocin response on our side of the cerebral fence, we could be on our way to getting taken. The problem is, how do we know when someone is mimicking trust? If he or she is skilled at doing so, much of the time we don’t, so we’re faced with the choice of taking a consistently hard line or taking a risk when we think the person might be genuine. There isn’t a right or wrong answer about that (everyone must make their own choices), but being aware of how effective cons work could give you enough of an edge to make the best decision.
- When you’re a con, you are revealing your character more than anything.
- Most cons rely on the victim’s own greed or ego. Con artists know that people often throw caution to the wind when they start seeing dollar signs or an opportunity to feel like a big fish in a small pond.. It’s a form of control. So, when you feed into a con artist, the both of you are actually using each other. That says a lot about you and it says a lot about the con artist.
- When con men meet a legitimately honest man, they are so bewildered that they consider him a greater con man than themselves. (Hebrew proverb)
- If you deceive me once, shame on you; if you deceive me twice, shame on me.
- You can get a lot of good stuff associating with con artists. but there’s a price to pay.
- Con artists are smart and intelligent, just not wise. They’re Foolish.
- Con artists can’t acquire anything. As fast as it comes in their hands, it goes out.
- You have to be vulnerable to be conned. It’s dangerous to be a sponge.
- Question everything. The more questions you ask, the more they give themselves up.
- You never get something for nothing. There’s an old saying: “You can’t cheat an honest man.” Ask for some kind of written documentation of their offer. Check for a real address, not a P.O. Box. Ask to see a driver’s license, and write down the information on it. Write down license plate numbers, and make sure the con artist sees you doing it. If it’s a legitimate offer, he won’t mind. Tell him you need to think the deal over for at least a few days before making a decision. A con artist will often pressure you to make a decision on the spot — often using hard sell tactics, such as saying that the deal won’t last. They may get nervous when you ask for something in writing, and will usually refuse to provide it. When someone wants your money, if the offer is legitimate, it will still be around next week.
“You may deceive people, but you cannot deceive the universe”
“The George Jefferson Walk”
Did you enjoy this short story? Please show your support to Tee by sharing or making a donation!