Rudy and I have enjoyed our time down here in Mexico. Life is good. We have each other’s company. The days are warm and the nights cool. People are friendly. There’s really nothing much to ruffle our feathers. We’re just “wasting away again in Sayulita-ville.”
Today we went out for a late lunch. We wanted to get tacos at Naty’s Cocina, a restaurant that Augusta and James had raved about. Supposedly the chicken mole tacos are delicious. But when we got there the sun was shining hotly on the picnic tables at the curb and there was a lineup. So instead we headed for a place called Ruben’s for sandwiches. The tables were in the shade on the sidewalk and all was well…
Except for a bit of commotion on the street in front of us. A man had a couple of crates on end with a towel placed nicely on top of them. He had three shells and a small pebble which he moved around under the shells — the ‘shell game’ — and around him were a number of people who appeared to be placing bets on which shell the pebble was under. There was a lot of cheering and yelling and it looked like the players were guessing correctly and winning way more often than not.
But appearances can be deceiving. As we sat and watched over lunch, it became clear that all of these people were in on what was a scam. Instead of watching the shell game, they were mostly keeping their eyes out for innocent passers-by and calling out to them, trying to convince them to come join them in the fun. I didn’t understand much of what was being said but lots of (fake) excitement was radiating from the betting table as they tried to lure people in.
At one point they managed to attract a woman who was walking by to come on over and one of the scammers asked the woman to put her finger on what she claimed was the winning shell so that she could get something from her purse. Surprise, surprise! When the shell was turned over, sure enough, it was a winner! There were cheers from the scammers and the dealer passed out 200 pesos to the supposed winner. “And,” he exclaimed to the passerby, “here’s 200 for you too because you kept your finger on the shell.” The passerby declined and walked away, but the scammer woman who had “won” the 200 pesos ran over and pulled her back and urged her to take the other 200 pesos from the dealer. Then all the scammers around the crate chimed in for her to continue playing. “No thanks,” she said and walked away with the 200 pesos. Yikes! The scammers were scammed at their own game — not only did they not entice the stranger to bet (and lose) a pile of money; now THEY were losing 200 pesos of their own money! This was not how the game was supposed to go. There was a moment’s hesitation and then the scammer woman ran after the passerby and grabbed the 200-peso note back.
All very entertaining for us watching from our tables on the sidewalk. You don’t get live theatre like that everyday. And we didn’t have to pay anything for the show.