Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Hustle and Hustle of New Orleans

St Louis Cathedral, New Orleans
Emphasis on the hustle. Sorry if you’re reading this blog thinking it will be full of foolproof travel advice. This was not my smartest or finest hour travel peeps. But I digress...

It was only my sixth day in the US and I was still on that familiar travel high…"I love all these unique places, strangers, friendly people chatting to us just because we’re from another country…"

I was so high that I didn’t have my street smarts with me. (I may also have been high on sugar – I had just moments before had a creole southern breakfast i.e. sweet crepe with creamy cheesy custard and fried apple). I would have to say that before this incident, I prided myself on being a savvy traveller. I always watched my valuables in crowded areas, forever on the look out for pickpockets. Not that day. I got hustled. Big time.

Dictionary definition of ‘Hustle’ is: To obtain something by deceitful or illicit means; practice theft or swindling.To solicit customers. Used of a pimp or prostitute. To misrepresent one's ability in order to deceive someone, especially in gambling.

Me. Pre hustle.
So, here’s a run down of what happened. My Kiwi and I were walking along the mighty Mississippi River when a woman (who had beautiful gold teeth) approached me...

Her: How y’all doin? I bet I can tell you where you got those shiny sneakers...

Travel Mistake #1do not wear your shiny new Nike sneakers in New Orleans. They are as good as a neon sign flashing ‘get your gullible tourist here’.

Smug ol' me thinks she will never know I bought them at home in Australia.
Me: Really?

Travel Mistake #2 - once you open your mouth and speak to the hustler...you are as good as gone.

She then introduces herself....

Her: Let me shake your hand ma’am. Please to meet y'all. Welcome to our beautiful city of New Orleans. I been born and bred here, even survived Katrina. I’ll give you a free shoe clean if I can’t tell you were you got them shoes.

(She had already started to clean my already sparkling white shoes with a tiny cloth and some no-name soap. Actually come to think of it, I’m not even sure it was soap).

Her: Ma’am, if I can tell you where you got them shoes, city and state, you’ll pay for your shoe clean? Shake on it?

Travel Mistake #3 - never shake on anything with a hustler and be arrogant enough to think you will win (and the deal will be fair).

Me: Sure. I promise.

We shake.

Her: So, you got them shoes on your feet, your feet are on the ground in New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana.

Me: S!ht. Damn. I’ve been had.

So naturally I laugh and turn to walk away. I won't be giving her any money, I think to myself, she just conned me! But the two massive guys sitting on a park bench about two metres away don’t think it’s funny. They are apparently with her. So My Kiwi reaches into his wallet and pays the woman her rate – $5 a shoe.

Like I said, not my finest hour! I went to drown my sorrows in sugar - Beignets. More on that next post.

Have you ever been hustled, hassled or hoodwinked? Please share. No names necessary. Your identity will be protected…

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