Sometimes It Is Okay to Be a Sucker

You know, I talk a good game, but when it comes right down to it, I’m a pretty nice guy. I know, I know, I need to keep working on that, but it’s an uphill battle. As an example, a couple of years ago, my car got hit by a woman changing lanes illegally. Nothing to get too upset about, we both pulled over, checked out the damage, exchanged contact information, she knew she was at fault. But here’s the kicker — she asked if we could settle it without going through insurance. Being a trusting soul (and figuring the damage wasn’t that bad), I said okay.

So I get the repairs done, and give her a call at her work number, the number she gave me. Where I promptly discover she doesn’t work there anymore. Bad sign. I manage to track her down at her home number (since I’d been smart enough to write down her home address from her driver’s license), and give her the repair cost. At which point she gives me a whole sob story about how she’s now out of work, and paying it will be difficult. I’m sympathetic, but firm. She asks for a couple of weeks, and I accede. Two weeks go by. Three weeks. Four. Nothing. I end up having to make harassing calls to her repeatedly before she finally coughs up a money order. The moral of the story is never agree to arrange things without going through the insurance companies. I vow that I’ll never be such a sucker again.

Fast-forward to a few months ago. I get rear-ended by a taxi driver. We get out, exchange information, inspect the damage — which looks a lot worse on his end; my CR-V looks like it just has some marks on the bumper. He’s a recent immigrant, renting the cab, and he asks... if we can settle it without going through insurance. And, sucker that I am, I say okay. After all, you can barely see anything wrong with my car.

Until later, when I notice that the exhaust system is making a lot more noise than it should. And my mechanic figures out that the muffler and exhaust pipes will all need to be replaced, to the tune of about $550. I get the repairs made, and contact Henry, the cab driver. Not having a lot of money, he asks what we can do, and I offer to allow a payment plan: $100 a month until it’s paid off. After all, I can afford the initial outlay, while he clearly can’t. He eagerly accepts, and we go our separate ways. I suppose I took some solace in the fact that I at least recognized that my chances of seeing my money back at all weren’t great; I put it at about 50-50. But the first payment comes in, right on time. And the second. And the third.

And then he gives me a call. His father’s passed away, and he’s going to have to go back to Africa to make funeral arrangements. Throws a monkey wrench into the plan, but what can I do? He says he’ll be gone for a couple of months, but mentally, I write off the remainder of the payment.

Last night I get a phone call. It’s Henry, saying he’s back in the country, and is eager to resume payment. Go figure.

So maybe I’m a sucker. But still it’s nice, every once in a while, to have your faith in the basic honesty of people restored. Just don’t expect me to start giving people the benefit of the doubt here. This ain’t real life, you know.


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