Manipulation

If my oversized boots and dangling water bottle weren’t enough, the confused look on my long Caucasian face made it clear that this foreigner was out of his element. He was lost, and he had no idea what he was doing. The perfect opportunity. The middle aged man with the short black hair and kind wrinkles in his round face made a smooth approach to ask, “Where are you going?” His accent was noticable but clear. He worked with foreigners regularly.

“Is there money exchange nearby?” I asked hopefully.

He thought visibly for a moment and reported, “Exchange money in town. About 20 minutes by walk.” He pointed to the corridor leading out of the train station where a steady stream of travelers were exiting. “But you come in my taxi, and I charge you only one way. We go both ways.” He looked at me plaintively to assess my reaction to his proposal. His innocence was fake and transparently so.

For this lost and confused traveler was not nearly so green as he appeared. I was calling his bluff.

“Well, I’m about to miss the train, so I’ve got a couple hours to kill before the next one,” I said before turning on my heel and joining the flow.

His estimate wasn’t far off. It took me about 20 minutes to find an ATM, but that was only because I got turned around and almost walked right back out of Malaysia into Thailand. Malaysian ringgit in hand, I made the 10-minute walk back and bought my $4 ticket on the commuter train to Butterworth. I did indeed miss the train and now have another hour to kill before the next one.

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