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Here's the story.
A month ago I was driving down the I-440 on-ramp at Nolensville Rd. when a man flagged me down. Actually, flagged isn't the right word. I pulled over because when you see a pudgy, middle aged, George Costanza look-alike come running up the side of the highway waving his arms like his ass is on fire you tend to want to find out what's going on.
Turns out, this guy, who I think called himself Steve, had just run out of gas, had no cash and was just trying to get enough to fill up and drive home. He was talking a mile a minute through the passenger side window I'd rolled down about how the cops had come but weren't able to help because he didn't have his wallet and how all these drivers, including the ones with Jesus fish bumper stickers, had passed him by and...and...and all I wanted to do was make sure one or the both of us didn't get killed on the side of the highway.
So after a too-brief assessment, I determined that Steve was too middle-aged, too doughy and wire-framed and yes, sadly, too white (hey, matching skin tones!) to be lying. I was wrong...
I didn't have any cash on me so I told Steve to hop in and we'd go to a gas station ATM. On the way there he told me his story: kitchen supplies salesman from Chattanooga who just happened to forget every piece of identification he owned on the kitchen table that morning.
Looking back, every detail seems like an evermore ridiculous lie. But at the time it all seemed plausible.
And after Steve told me about how he'd been saved 10 years earlier, and how un-Christian it was of his fellow motorists to pass him without stopping, and how surely I must be a dyed-in-the-wool believer like himself in order to have committed such an amazing act of grace, well, I was hooked.
Because ya see, Steve, I'm actually an atheist. So I will now allow the fog of my own smug self-satisfaction to blind me to the fact that you're obviously a scam artist about to relieve me of a chunk of my hard-earned cash.
So that was that. I gave Steve $30 and my business card and in return he gave me the dual promise that he'd repay my loan and spread word of my charitable act far and wide. All was well. Until this Sunday.
Because there, on the side of the I-440 off-ramp at 21st Avenue, I saw Steve, flailing his arms in the same manner that'd stopped me a month before. I didn't pull over because I was going too fast. But a couple of illegal u-turns later I spotted Steve, talking in the passenger window of what I assumed was another sucker.
I got back on I-440 with the intent to circle back and confront him. Daydreams of sweet, sweet vengeance (the Me As Hero kind that always play out awkwardly in real life) swirled in my head as I called non-emergency police and asked for a squad car. But by the time I'd looped back...nothing. Steve was gone and the cops weren't there either. (Not that they should have been. I was duped. I almost consider their non-response over this "issue" a mark in their favor.)
A couple quick calls to Metro PD have produced nothing. No one seems to know if this is something "Steve" does often or if anyone looking like him was arrested anytime recently. But 10 minutes with the cops has made me reassess how idiotic I originally thought Steve for running the same scam two miles apart: It turns out that gap crosses a police fault line between the West and the South precincts. Maybe Steve knows that, maybe he doesn't. Wish I could ask him.
Anyway, if anyone else has seen, heard of or picked up our anonymous I-440 Grifter, let that be known in the comments below. Also acceptable: Detailed explanations for why I'm a complete boob. Not that I need any more convincing.