August 2021


The Croatian Scam?

It started simply enough: I was walking down the street when a young man stopped me and asked, “Do you speak English?”

He didn’t fit my profile of people to whom I say, “I’m terribly sorry, but no, I do not speak English! What a terrible misfortune. I wish you luck in finding somebody who does speak English.”

Instead he fit the profile of people who look vaguely lost and need directions, I said, “Yes.”

“Do you know any Croatians?” he queried.

“No,” I replied.

“So, you only know Germans?” he asked.

“I don’t know any Croatians,” I said.

We then started a brief discussion where I admitted I was an American and he wanted to know why Kansas and Arkansas were pronounced so differently – “I have family in Arkansas,” he said.

It was in this moment that I suddenly recalled that this wasn’t the first time I’d been asked if I knew anybody from Croatia.

The last time had been a very cold evening, as I was returning home from a party. Coming out of the U-Bahn station, it had occurred to me that I needed to pee. And pee badly. The multiple half-liters of hefeweizen were coming back to haunt me.

About 20 meters from my front door, a young man had stopped me – with the very same series of questions: “Do you speak English?” and “Do you know any Croatians?”

I don’t recall the exact tale of woe that I was told 18 months ago, but the young man who stopped me today was a construction worker who was going to get paid tomorrow, but last night his roommate had been too drunk and he’d had to sleep in a hostel. He now needed 12€ to pay off his hostel bill.

There’s no way I will ever pull out my wallet on the street to give money to somebody on the street so I lied: “Sorry, I don’t have any money on me.”

“How will I pay my bill,” the guy asked me.

“Good luck,” I answered as I started walking again.

May all the Croatians I don’t know, who live in Berlin, stop rooming with alcoholics.

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