Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hustled in New Orleans

I'm sure there are other places in the world where this type of thing takes place, but after my recent return visit to New Orleans, I am now convinced that I may have been to two of the worst. I was there once in 1998, but it was only for a day, and I don't recall feeling the way

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I felt this time during that visit. I do, however recall feeling this way in Jamaica in 2007, when a Caribbean cruise we took stopped there as one of the three stops.

The locals ruin it for the tourists! For Jamaica the number one way the country makes money is probably due to tourism, but instead of making the people who visit feel comfortable, I wouldn't be surprised if there are many people who've visited Jamaica who feel the way I do. I remember being asked if I wanted to "smoke some of da good stuff, mon" within about 2 minutes of getting off the ship! I remember not even really feeling safe walking the streets. There were men standing around in the streets armed with AK-47s. Like holy crap, there's a guy with an AK-47! Oh wait, that's a cop. Wait a minute.. why do they have to have cops standing around in the streets armed with AK-47s? I remember feeling really uncomfortable being consistently pulled here and lured there by locals, who simply wanted to try to sell me some of their products: art, clothing, food, and other keepsakes.

The thing about Jamaica, though, is these people are trying to make an honest living selling stuff to tourists - they are just a little too aggressive in their manor of going about it.

Then there's New Orleans. In 48 hours in New Orleans I was approached probably 25-30 times for one reason or another. And not just in the French Quarter.

"Hey sir, can I bum a smoke?"

"I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes!"

"If you tell me your first name, I'll bet I can spell your last name."

One guy asked me about the Longhorns (I was wearing a Texas Longhorns t-shirt), and proceeded to make conversation for a good 5-minutes before he, too, asked to bum a smoke.

A guy in a devil costume hustled us for a dollar to take a picture with him, and another guy in a party patrol costume (I actually thought he was a cop before looking closely) hustled us for $10 for a "free" baseball cap. I wear a lot of caps, and loved the thought of a free cap, so this was cool at first. Then he handed my wife a pink cap, and asked in so many words to "show some love" for a couple of caps. He wanted $15 for both, so we handed the pink one back, and gave him $10 for mine. Hustled again!

The people who work at the bars in the French Quarter literally try to get in your way as you're walking by, and lead you into their establishment. They all have the best drink deals, the biggest, cheapest beers, and are the only ones who make their Hurricanes from scratch.

Several times it was just a homeless person asking for a couple bucks for a burger. "I have no job, and am starving.. will you buy me a burger & fries?" Some of them probably are homeless, jobless, and hungry, but I doubt they all are. Most of them are grifters.

In 48 hours, we witnessed two drug deals. One of the groups of guys actually had the nerve to ask us if we were looking to buy some weed as we were on a voodoo/ cemetery tour. They then proceeded to go make a deal with some dude a few minutes later less than 50 feet from us. The other one took place in a restaurant - with a female officer waiting in line to buy food!

The difference between Jamaica and New Orleans is that most of these people in New Orleans - outside of the very talented street performers - aren't trying to make an honest living with their product or service. They're hustlers looking to take advantage of nice, normal tourists.. like me.

New Orleans, if you want people to come visit your city, you might try cracking down on this type of thing. I don't know.. you could call it Felony Tourist Harassment, or something.



Havok - "Point of No Return"