by Gary Spina
If you are homeless, down on your luck, or just pulling a scam on naive and guileless tourists, it is easy to get a free meal in Washington, D.C. – at least at the street-side food trucks.
It’s not difficult. You watch for a guy with his girl. You can always tell whether the pair are wide-eyed, star-struck tourists, and whether they are dating and not husband and wife. The single guys with their chicks are the easiest marks. But the scam works even if they are a married couple and they are natives because most Washingtonians are liberals. And fools. But I repeat myself.
The scam works like this: It’s a hot afternoon. A phalanx of tourists wait in line at a street-side hotdog truck. The petty con man approaches the couple who are waiting in the line to get up front to place their order. It could be any food truck, doesn’t have to be hotdogs. And it doesn’t matter how poorly or how well dressed the con man is, as long as he is not in a suit or business attire.
“Hey, buddy – can you spare a couple of bucks so I can buy a hotdog? I haven’t eaten since yesterday.” You are the victim — the guy with the girl, and you are on the spot. You know you are being conned, but your girl is looking up at you as if saying in her mind, “Can he really be that cruel as to deny a hungry man some food?”
As you hesitate, the con-artist presses home. “Look, I’m not gonna spend the money on booze. Stand right here and watch. You don’t even have to give me the money, just pay the man for one hotdog for me. Please.”
There’s no way out now. Your girl is watching, so you tell the hotdog vendor, “Give him whatever he wants. I’m paying.”
“Oh, thank you,” says the con-artist. He orders two hotdogs with “the works” – mustard, chili, onions, whatever. And he orders a tall drink to wash it down. You know you are being made a fool of, but your girl is looking up at you as though you are a hero – her hero — God’s own special angel for the poor and downtrodden.
But you are a total ass, and you know it. The bold panhandler with the two hot dogs and the tall drink in his hand knows it, and the vendor in the hotdog truck knows it. The hotdog vendor has seen this scam a thousand times before, but what the hell does he care. He just sold two more hotdogs. With the works. And a tall drink. Not so shabby, he’s thinking.
If done right, the scam works every time. Almost. It doesn’t work with me because the only women I’m ever seen with in Washington are liberals, feminists, and self-absorbed man-haters. I date them just to subtly, secretly antagonize them.
For example, I barge through the front door of a restaurant ahead of my feminist dates and I let them worry about getting hit with the door as it closes behind me. When we are seated, I am very attentive, making sure I talk about their successful careers, but when the waiter comes around, I jump ahead of my dates and order first. I order a bottle of fine wine for myself and ask my date if she is going to order wine for herself. And, of course, the politically correct thing in our modern screwy society is to always allow the woman to order for herself. The waiter takes the order, and as he is leaving I stop him.
“Have you got my order right? I’m having…” Here I repeat my order kind of reinforcing what is mine as distinguished from what the babe is ordering.
I always let the woman order for herself, because in our modern world, it’s just not in vogue to be macho or to assume a swaggering machismo air of masculinity. My manners at table are impeccable. I do not belch or pass wind, though the temptation is strong. At the end of the meal, when the waiter comes around, he hands me the check, to which I become indignant. I tell him, “Separate checks, please, you sexist pig!”
Right about then the woman’s eyes open wide. I’m tempted to tell her what beautiful eyes she has, but that would be grossly inappropriate. She stews as I secretly enjoy what teenage boys experience at night while they are dreaming wild and wondrous fantasies.
But I digress. When we talk about eating out in Washington, somethings are free and somethings you pay for with your pride and dignity – hotdogs or fine food and wine – it is all the same and all entertaining if you view it from the proper perspective – especially if you are of the chosen few in high office. There are the Washington politicians who have conned us into paying for their meals, their lodging, their healthcare, their retirement, expense accounts, staffing, travel expenditures, leased limousines, and drivers to get them to “work” every day, campaign finance money, franking privileges, free haircuts, and perks we “tourists” can scarcely imagine.
And not to ruin anyone’s appetite, but those of us who know, who understand Washington – who understand the slippery slime of both the Democrats and the Republicans — we know that the city was built on a swamp that is known as “foggy bottom” and that the city is in reality a cesspool where the mighty and the powerful are floaters who seem to always float along the surface.
Bon appetite, my fellow Americans.