By Caitlin Chung
A couple of weeks ago, someone I know told me about an unfortunate and embarrassing experience they recently had in the parking lot of an Etobicoke Walmart. They encountered a man who asked them to lend them some money to pay for their taxi fare on their way back – the taxi behind them, a black Toyota, supposedly only took credit cards as payment.
The victim, as I’ll call them, offered to pay their fare without hesitation. The victim was willing to lend a hand, to simply be nice, fulfilling our Canadian stereotypes.
From an objective point of view, there were a few red flags from the get-go. For instance, what kind of taxi doesn’t accept cash as a form of payment? Though I’d like to emphasize that there’s a line between naivety and kindness, I’m not going to comment on what was going on inside the head of our dear victim.
In school (and life in general) we are taught what it means to be generous and the importance of always being willing to lend a hand to someone in need. We are taught to not judge a person based on their appearance, to not discriminate, to not hold prejudices against people different from ourselves, and most importantly, we are taught to always be kind. When I think about all of those lessons, though, as much as I agree that we should always be gentle with ourselves and others around us, it is impossible to be kind all the time. Being nice to one another can make for a better world, but the societal expectation that we must always be nice creates unrealistic expectations and limits expression in fear of being unkind.
The desire to be viewed as kind causes people to hide their true intentions. And frankly, it’s too easy to pretend to be nice. Where do we draw the line between genuine and performative kindness? How do we clearly distinguish one from the other?
Back to the story: our anonymous victim handed their card to the taxi driver. I think we can all see what’s coming. In the span of a few seconds, the driver handed back the card, the rider passed the victim a 5 dollar bill, and the two immediately drove off. After a moment of thought, realizing then that the situation was oozing of suspicion, the victim looked at the card only to notice that it was not their card. Surprise, surprise, it was the cancelled card of a previous victim of the same scam.
Luckily, in those precious 5 minutes following the scammers’ flee, the victim successfully cancelled their stolen card and called the police. If they had wasted even a minute, though, the scammers could have reached a bank and withdrawn thousands of dollars. In hindsight, we could call this a happy ending, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste nonetheless. Scammers take advantage of a person’s innocence, naivety, and kindness.
Unfortunately, this leaves me with only one piece of advice to offer in such a scenario: be wary of who you’re kind to. It sounds twisted and cynical, but unfortunately, these words have proven to be all too wise and all too valuable.
All in all, I sincerely hope none of us fall prey to these scams in the future. Sincerity can be felt in the heart. It’s an expression that cannot be faked or masked by empty words and actions. So, rather than aiming to be a kind person all the time, wouldn’t it be more important to convey our sincerity and be true to ourselves?