When many of us want something bad enough, we’ll go great lengths to get it and not even think about what’s really going on around us. But sometimes, we need to think before we dig ourselves in a little too deep. This is the lesson I learned on October 22, 2005 in New York City.
On this day, I went into the city with my friends Kaitlyn, Jen, and Tristan. Like many teenagers, my friends and I thought it would be fun to go and get fake ID’s. We were already in the city and we knew of an area where they were sold. At the time, it seemed like a great idea and none of us had second-guessed it. So we went out to lunch at a T.G.I.Friday’s and asked our waiter, David, where we could find the St. Mark’s area and told him why we wanted to know. David had told us that there was a little Chinese convenient store on our left side, so we headed down the block and all started looking.
As we were walking, we were discussing what names we would be putting on our ID’s, what addresses, and what ages we would put down as well. As we’re talking, I see the store two buildings ahead of us. And at that moment, we pass a random man that says under his breath, “Fake ID’s… Driver’s licenses…” This caught my attention and we stop to talk to him. He offers to make us very realistic fake ID’s for the low price of $25 and we’re thrilled, it seemed so easy. You couldn’t slap the smiles off our faces. This man seemed like a life-saver… a 6’4”, huge, intimidating, life-saver. We followed his instructions of following him, but not too close of course, and he even showed us a sample ID. We passed it around and we couldn’t believe it. With an ID like that we would be able to go into any bar or club and actually get in. Someone I once knew had a fake id, and I remember that his didn’t have anything on the back so I checked this man’s and it even had the little barcodes that you see on real ID’s… we were impressed.
We followed him into a McDonald’s and he gave us pieces of paper to fill out the information we wanted on the cards and told us that we don’t even have to pay for the ID’s if we don’t like them. It’s just too perfect. Then he said, “Now take out all your big bills, I need to know how much money you have.” We’re confused but we do it anyway. Everyone else hesitates but I was the one asking if he wanted just my hundred dollar bill or my four twenties too. He told us to write down the amount of money that we had on the sheets with our fake information, and roll the money in that paper. We did this and asked why he needed to know how much money we all had. He said he had to scan the bills and make sure we weren’t cops. Then he says that he’s going to bring Tristan to have his picture taken first for the ID, and assures us that Matt will be holding the money and there is nothing to worry about. Tristan is afraid to go alone and objects to it, but I told him that I’ll follow behind to make sure nothing happens. The man who was selling us the ID’s didn’t want all of us to go with them because he said it would look suspicious, and he was probably right. He and Tristan left the McDonald’s and a few seconds later, I followed.
It’s beginning to get dark and it’s raining, so I couldn’t see where my friend was. As I’m about to panic, I see the black man in the blue sweatshirt who was helping us jog around a corner and then a truck passes, then I don’t see him anymore. I’m confused by this so I keep walking and look around the corner and see Tristan. Since the man didn’t want anyone to follow them I stayed on my side of the street and waited to see what would happen next. After a few minutes I walk over to Tristan and he has a confused look on his face and says that he thinks we just got robbed. Apparently the man asked Tristan if he trusted him and Tristan responded that he has no reason to trust him or distrust him. That was probably the best answer. But still, the man got angry, cornered him into a tight space and says, “Yeah, well I can give you a reason to distrust me.” Tristan then threw up in his mouth, had to swallow it, and then almost peed in his pants. After this, the man told him to stay where he was because he had to go ‘run the money’ and scan it and would be back in a few minutes. This was now ten minutes at least.
Then I call Kaitlyn and Jen to see how they are doing waiting at McDonald’s and I tell them what’s going on. At this point we still have hope though. The man was so nice it was hard to believe that he would do that to us. We’re talking and out of nowhere Kaitlyn’s voice gets nervous and jittery and she starts saying “I have to go, I have to go.” Something is wrong. I tell her to just answer yes or no, and I ask if she is with him. She said yes and hung up the phone. Petrified, I tell Tristan I need to go back to McDonald’s and he waits in the spot as the man had told him. I’m rushing down the street hoping my friends are okay and I finally find them. It turns out that another man came into McDonald’s to check to see if they had any more money and when Kaitlyn told him he wasn’t getting anymore of her money, the guy got angry. He tried to pull it from her hands, but being the only smart one at that time, she wouldn’t give him her hundred dollars. He yells at them and says if they’re not going to cooperate then they’re not going to do business with us.
We hang around for another half hour or so and then it hit us. We weren’t getting our fake ID’s and we weren’t getting our $260 back either. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Think before you act, and don’t trust strangers in the city with your money.