My friend George, in his mid-60’s, was a vice president of an insurance company. He’s told me a few amusing stories of fraud. A man with a claimed bad back was filmed lifting concrete blocks and bowling. A supposedly blind dude was filmed driving a car, steering a Jet Ski and examining jar labels in a store. Dogged detective work landed these cheaters in jail.
A factory was scheduled to die at noon, but word leaked out, so within three hours, more than 300 claims of workplace injuries flooded in. Allied with the union, doctors and chiropractors got most of these workers paid.
I have a friend who made medical casts for a crooked doctor. A family man, Bill is also smart and cultured.
“With the insurance industry so powerful, how come we have so many frivolous lawsuits?” I asked George as we sat in Friendly Lounge.
“Lawyers are more powerful! Trial lawyers spend five times on lobbyists than the insurance industry. Also, our president and vice president are lawyers. Nearly half of our congress are lawyers. We’re ruled by lawyers!”
If there’s a sniff of honey or milk, there’s a shyster. Where there are burning bushes, there are shysters. If there’s an election, there’s a shyst load of shysters.
Don, the Friendly Lounge owner, jumped in, “I know a guy who purposely fell off a ladder. He’s fine, nothing wrong with him, but he’s been paid ever since. I hate people who work the system like that!”
“How old was he when he fell?”
“Around 35, and he’s in his mid-60 now.”
I know a kitchen worker who purposely sliced into her finger, but not too far. It was worth it, she claimed.
Too many of us want something for nothing. Across the street from the bar is a newsstand with lottery tickets. Its owners are a middle-aged couple from India. Don, “The other day, a Mexican guy rode up on a bicycle and bought a thousand dollars’ worth of rub-offs. He rubbed all those tickets and won just $300!”
“That’s pretty funny!”
“Yeah, he lost $700 just like that.”
Standing at the end of the bar, Maria ordered a rum and coke then showed me her betting slips. “I only bet on the horses three times a year. Only the big races, you know. I’m better with the numbers.”
Born in the Dominican Republic, Maria believes in law, order, torture and natural remedies.
“I’d think you’d have a better chance with the horses,” I said. “At least it’s not totally random!”
“Ah, but I have dreams,” Maria winked and smiled. “In my dreams, sometimes I get the right numbers.”
Marco, sitting at the far end watching the Phillies, has been on disabilities ever since he suffered a nervous breakdown decades ago.
Tony, right behind me, is living in his car after losing everything on the horses. Too broke to pay for inspections, Tony risks getting his sad shelter towed. His son is in a Texas prison for drug dealing, and his grandsons are nearby in New Jersey, but Tony’s too ashamed to go see them.
The man who owns the cigarette machine makes his living honestly. Showing up in the afternoon, he often buys a round for the handful of patrons, old farts usually. The man’s uncle, though, was Blinky Palermo, the well-known boxing fixer. Beneath the sheen, there’s the sham, nearly always.
Financially challenged, I’ve only known small-time crooks. Ralph is a professional shoplifter, with a list of regular buyers. Let’s say you need some Zyrtec, the allergy medicine. Seventy tablets will set you back $43 at Walgreens. If you’re making minimum wage, that’s a day’s salary. Order it from Ralph and you’ll only pay five bucks, however, with same day delivery even. What else do you need? Canned tuna? Cheese? I know a guy who would accompany Ralph to a store to indicate the exact item he wants, then go outside and wait for it.
More and more Americans are having a hard time putting food on the table. John, a car mechanic in his 50’s, told me about his granddad, an immigrant from Germany, “He used to kill pigeons with rocks! There were so many back then, they covered the sky. My granddad would go to a park to throw rocks at pigeons. There were so many, he couldn’t miss, so he’d kill a couple for dinner. This was in Camden.”
What would you kill so you and yours could eat? With their economy collapsing, some Venezuelans are hunting dogs and cats, so we’re told. Stores are being looted.
As crooked above, so crooked below, and bad times will certainly multiply crookedness. We’ll see many more liars, thieves and murderers as our economy and political system tank. Many among us will also join their ranks. Surviving outside the law will increasingly be the norm.
Street fighting will also become a more prevalent skill. Already, political violence is erupting. A lot can happen between now and November, and we’re merely spectators to our rulers’ machinations, but Hustling Trump seems a better tool than Crooked Hillary. Our rulers need a polarizing figure so we can tear into each other as they go on with their crimes.
Besides being a boost for gun control, hatred of Muslims and sympathy for gays, the Orlando massacre tale is the deep state giving Trump a push.
They shot up the club, killed a bunch, including the fall guy, then immediately released a story about this crazed, violent Muslim who hated the United States and homosexuals. Omar Mateen was a regular at Club Pulse, however, and he went there to pick up men, according to other regulars. Also recorded are two eye witnesses who say there was a man blocking the door as club patrons tried to escape, so it wasn’t just one shooter acting alone. You don’t need an above-retarded IQ to conclude there were likely several shooters, with Omar Mateen not necessarily one of them. Featured witnesses, those that go on Good Morning America, for example, are plants.
Anyway, Trump is so “outside,” he met with Kissinger recently, and Condi Rice and Newt Gingrich, of all people, are being floated as his vice president. With their ballot machines, our rulers can select anybody they want anyway. In the election farce, American voters are just goofy extras.
A lifelong Republican, George will vote Libertarian this year. Looking angry, Marco wouldn’t tell me who he thinks is this country’s savior. Grinning, John just shrugged.
Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, Postcards from the End of America.