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Chicago Hustle

No sense being a grifter if its the same as bein’ a citizen.

– Henry Gondorff, The Sting.

“Here. I’ll scan you through.” He smiled and held up his CTA card. I was skeptical why a stranger would offer to pay for someone else’s fare. I thanked him but I needed to buy a pass anyways.

“Come, come,” he insisted very politely. Curiosity is a weakness for me. I followed him to the turnstile. He quickly inserted the card and opened the gate for me. I didn’t want to waste his money so I walked through. He said nothing, only smiled. I felt compelled to pay him for the fare. I offered him the two dollars.

“Actually, do you want the card? There was five dollars on it.” I thought about it for a second, still skeptical. It was only five dollars so there wasn’t much to risk. I handed over the money and took the card.

“Have a nice day.”

I waited for the train and replayed what had happened in my head. I figured I had gotten conned but I wanted to wait until I could figure out the value of the card at my stop. As soon as I departed the train I headed straight for one of the CTA machines and inserted the card. It said it had $0.75 on it. I laughed. I got hustled. It seemed like a lot of work for him to profit two dollars but I guess the economy is hell for a hustler too.

I shared this story to a friend. She was incredulous as to why I was so enthusiastic about being hustled. I tried to explain that I had heard about cons and hustles, I read about them and that I understood how they worked but I had never experienced one. Now I have, and now I can appreciate the craft that a grifter puts into their work. Next time I won’t be such an easy mark.

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