I was walking down the street yesterday when a man approached me in a panic, “Excuse me sir, do you speak English?” I acknowledged the obvious and he asked if I could help him. “What’s the problem?” I inquired. He held up has hand and said that someone had robbed him of all his money, passport and in the process shattered his little finger. The police were not any help and had left him high and dry in the Plaza de Armes. As he held up his hand and it was obvious that his finger was terribly deformed and had a slash along the knuckle.
Of course I was ready to help. He told me his name was Travis and he was from Ireland. My first response was to flag down a motorcar and start towards the hospital but then my Iquitos senses started kicking in. First step, get Paul and Camilla involved so that we make sure that we don’t get taken for a ride at the hospital. As we race down the street I pick up my cell phone and called Paul. His Iquitos sense is better than mine and his first comment is to check out the guy and make sure he is for real, so we set up a meeting spot to check the guy out.
As I hang up the phone I turn to my injured comrade and tell him we are going to meet a friend to check him out before we head to the hospital. Travis looks at me and tells me to drop him off then. I know I must have looked a little perplexed until it smacked me like a cold wet cloth, this was the English flim flam man I had been told about. For nine long years this lowlife has been scamming tourists with his sob story. His real name is Brian and he self-mutilated his finger so he could concoct a story that would be compelling to naïve tourists and create a regular income.
After a few choice words I threw my new friend out of the motorcar and realized even though I was smart enough not to give him any money I had just been taught another Iquitos lesson.