John the Pilot: Scammed like a champion

For my 30th birthday, I forced my girlfriends to join me in Palm Springs for a girls weekend.

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We were staying downtown and I was ready to get my groove on for my 30th. It had been a rough end to my 20s as far as dating was concerned, and I needed this boost.

There were just four of us the first night, myself, Nicole, Megan, and a very pregnant Lori.

Sidebar--I’d like to get some major virtual props for Lori who was seven months pregnant and coming along for a girls weekend. She’s the best. 

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We started the festivities in the hotel bar, and then Nicole, Megan, and I moved to the Village Pub, a Palm Springs institution for drinking and general shenanigans. (Lori stayed behind because she’s a trooper but she was seven months preggers. No brainer there.)

Now, anyone who’s been to downtown Palm Springs on a Friday night knows that there are two crowds. The Gays and the Straights. The collection of gay bars is delightful and fun, and if I hadn’t been in need of a serious single-girl-30th-birthday ego boost, I probably would have been more down for that.

But the Village Pub, and it’s usual collective of straights, out-of-towners, and military personnel, was where we decided to go, in the hopes of finding someone handsome to buy me drinks and tell me I’m pretty.

As expected, the bar was crowded, but the girls got me straight to the bar for the next round of drinks. And shots. And more drinks. We worked the room, somehow ended up outside and chatting with a few different groups of guys.

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In the interests of full disclosure, this part of the story is where my memory has gone a little bit fuzzy so this is a combination of what I remember and what Nicole remembers. Also, as Nicole was married and Megan in a relationship, I was both the birthday girl and the single mascot for everyone.

The first group of guys were--to put it mildly--underwhelming in terms of conversation and keeping our attention, but we gave them a chance as they were kind enough to buy us a round.

They were a little on the young side, and I’m pretty sure one of them called me a cougar. Color us insulted, and subsequently, we moved away to a different bar and new options.

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Nicole or Megan managed to get up to the bar to order drinks and promptly found us two new guys to chat with, and all was well. John and Adam were pilots for a private company and had arrived that same day to fly a client out and were enjoying the sights at the Village Pub.

But shortly into our conversation with these new guys, the youngsters showed up again, wondering what had happened to us. And they were legitimately upset.

Wait, what?

Yep. They were mad. We assumed they were upset because these new guys had moved in on their “territory.” That would be incorrect. They were mad because in their minds we drank and dashed.

One of the two youngsters who was upset with us started a more heated conversation with Nicole, and all of a sudden we hear “blah, blah, blah… bitch.”

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Apparently the accepting of a drink without a quid pro quo to go give something up was unacceptable. We later came to the decision that these guys clearly had never had dealings with women who actually had standards (even if, as we’ve discussed before, mine are slightly suspect).

Now, lucky for Megan and I (and our new guy friends at the bar), Nicole is not one to back down from a challenge or a confrontation. Especially if it involves a drunken idiot. Without recapping too much further, Nicole put him in his place and verbally castrated him.

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It was glorious.

As Nicole was in the middle of her tirade against said drunken idiot, Adam stepped in to back her up and take up the gauntlet she had thrown down. With that assist, the drunken youngsters were on their way.

Adam looks at Nicole and says “I have something for you,” and we all waited (hoping/praying it wasn’t something inappropriate or gross) while he reached in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.

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He takes on a dollar, and hands it to Nicole. “Keep this with you, and every time you look at it, you’ll remember that no one has the right to call you a bitch.”

Adam quickly became our favorite person. Sorry...I got a little sidetracked, but the Bitch Dollar was a fun part of this story.

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At this point, the five of us became fast friends, with John and me flirting heavily with one another. Turns out, John is not only a pilot but from Canada. If you’re friends with me, you understand my deep and abiding love for anything Canadian. I can’t explain it, but there you have it.

Exhibit A: my visit to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in 2015

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By the time we’d gotten to last call, John and I had enjoyed an in-depth discussion about the Toronto Maple Leafs, I’d sung “Oh! Canada!” for him to prove that I knew it, and he gave me shit for having never traveled north of the border (reminder: this is 2012, so three years before the picture above).

Speaking of last call, the lights come on at the bar, and I’m fairly hammered but still upright. Key difference there.

The guys looked at the three of us and said “Let’s keep the party going! Come back and party with us at our hotel! We’re staying at the Hilton, we can stop at a liquor store on the way back.”

From me: “YES! BRILLIANT!” (I’m loud to begin with. Adding alcohol just exacerbates my vocal capabilities.)

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But then the voice of reason--also named Nicole--spoke up.

“Um, guys,” she said. “I hate to break it to you, but the liquor stores are closed it’s 2 a.m.”
Adam shouts “We can raid the minibar at the hotel!”

And then the other voice of reason--aka John--says “We can’t, we’ll get fired.”

Well, shit.

Adam, who we quickly realized was the idea man of this duo, throws out his next idea.

“Let’s raid the liquor supply on the plane, we can just replace before we fly out. No one will know!”

The five of us stopped to consider, but by then both Nicole and Megan were not feeling like continuing the evening. And obviously, as good friends, they weren’t going to leave me behind with these two randoms.

So, we continued walking and came to the conclusion that the guys were going to walk us back to our hotel, and we would part ways.

John pulled me aside to get my number, telling me that he would call me to meet up for breakfast in the morning.

Now, I may have been intoxicated. But I was no fool.

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Sure, you’ll call me tomorrow.

The good news was, I had five more friends who were coming to Palm Springs the next day, so I really didn’t care.

I still gave him my number though. You never know, they sometimes manage to surprise a gal. It should be noted at this time, while I gave him my number, he did not reciprocate.

Again, not the end of the world as I’ve been down this road before with the fellas.

We say our goodbyes outside of the hotel, and John confirms he will call me in the morning for breakfast.

As we go inside, the girls are happy for me, and also asking if I’m going to meet him for breakfast in the morning.

“Well, it really depends on how I feel when I wake up,” I said. “But he’s cute and fun, and if he calls I’ll probably go. It’s just breakfast, after all.”

We make it into our room, and although we’re trying to be quiet we wake Lori up. The girls and I fill her in on the fun of our night, especially the Bitch Dollar story, and then we crash.

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At 8am, my phone rings. It’s a number I don’t recognize, with a 760 area code (Palm Springs). I pick up and groggily answer.

Ashley: Hello?
John: Hey, it’s John. Good morning!”
A: Yeah, something like that.
J: (laughing) Your head hurting you today?
A: Definitely. What’s up?
J: I wanted to see if you were up for brunch or lunch instead of breakfast, would that be ok?
A: Yeah, definitely. How about you call me a little bit later. Like when we’ve had some more sleep and then we can figure out a place and time.
H: That sounds perfect. I’ll call you later. Bye cutie!
A: Bye.

My friends proceeded to ask me questions which I groggily replied to, then we crashed for a couple more hours.

A few hours later, we were emerging from our slumber (or in my case, embarking on my hangover), started the process of showering and gearing up while waiting for the rest of the party to arrive.

At this point, I haven’t heard again from John about our “brunch” plans, but I also needed a liter of water and four Advil to get myself out of bed without losing what was left of my dinner and drinks all over the hotel room floor.

I was feeling slightly more human by the time I’d showered and gotten some crackers into my system when some of the other gals arrived.

By 11:30, we were just waiting for a couple more girls before we could go get some lunch and then head down to the pool for the afternoon. We were having fun laughing at the stories from the night before, and all of the girls curious to know if I’d heard from John the Pilot at that point.

I hadn’t. And then the radar kicked in. You know, the guy radar that knows instinctively when a girl is talking about him? Yeah, that radar.

My phone rings, with a different 760 phone number. I assumed this was John again, and after picking up my suspicions are confirmed.

The girls are all staring at me, so I step into the hallway to hold our conversation.

A: Hello?
J: Hey, it’s John again. I have some bad news.
A: Ok, what’s up?
J: We got a call about an hour ago that we’re flying to Dallas today. So we have to go get the plan ready to fly by 1pm
A: Oh, that’s a shame. I was looking forward to brunch. But, work is work so I mean, have a safe flight and all that.
J: Thanks, you’re a sweetheart. But hey, we talked about how much you want to go to Canada, I wanted to offer to fly you to come visit me in Toronto.
A: What?
J: When I’m done with this round of flights, I want to fly you to Toronto so we can spend some time together and you can see Canada.
A: Are you serious?
J: Yeah! Definitely. I want to see you again.
A: Wow, um, I mean, we’ll need to talk about this a little bit more.
J: Of course! I’ll call you when I get to Dallas and we can figure it out. If you don’t hear from me by tonight, give me a call or shoot me a text.
A: Yeah, sure that sounds great.
J: Awesome. Ok, cutie, you have a great birthday weekend with your friends. I’ll call you when we get settled in Dallas.
A: Ok, thanks, you have a good weekend too. Have a safe trip.
J: Thanks, bye!
A: Bye.

I went back into the room and filled the girls in.

“Oh my god! You HAVE to go to Toronto!” said my friend Missy, who had arrived in between the phone calls. “That would be so much fun!”

The rest of the room agreed with me, but at the same time, we were all a little on the incredulous side.

Fortunately, I’d sobered up enough at this point to where my wheels were turning. While I loved the idea of a free trip to a city I hadn’t been to, in a country that I love but have also never visited, something (for once in my life) gave me pause.

Probably something to do with the fact that a stranger who I’d met the night before was suddenly offering a free trip to a different country. This guy didn’t even know me!

Sidebar--it’s amazing. The online dating world has changed things so much. We’ll go home with a guy no problem given the right chemistry. But in spite of that, you don’t get the creepy/weird vibes until the guy suggests something that just doesn’t sound… right.

So in response to Missy’s suggestion that I simply had to take him up on his offer, I said:
“Guys, this sounds like a great opportunity, but I don’t know this guy at all,” I said. “He could like, fly me to Toronto and then go all Buffalo Bill on me!”

Yes, I know, I went straight to the really bad place.

There were some nods and sounds of agreement, I mean, there was some logic to what I was saying.

“But it’s a free trip to Canada!” Missy reminded me.

“Ok, that’s a valid point,” I said. “However, are you going to be the one to explain to my mother why I’ve disappeared in Canada with a guy who all we know about him is that he’s a pilot and his name is John?”

“Oh,” said Missy. “Well, no.”

Everyone around the room agreed, none of us wanted the Wrath of Mama Ingrid (that’s what my friends and I all call my mother) to come down on us. So it was decided that when John called me back, I would thank him for the offer, but decline it.

We went on our merry way at that point, going out for lunch, figuring out what we wanted to do with the rest of the day and carried on.

About two hours later, I was looking at my phone and doing the math about how long it takes a private plane to fly from Palm Springs to Dallas and wondering when I’d hear back from John.

And then it was like I was hit by a bolt of lightning.

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I had no way to get in touch with him other than the 760 phone number. Which, I discovered after a quick Google search, was for his hotel room.

Dude. This guy.

I looked at the girls and said: “I got totally scammed!”

“What?” some of them asked, while the others just looked at me expectantly.

“I got totally scammed! John never gave me his phone number! All I have is the number from his hotel!” I was getting excited at this point.

“Seriously you guys!” I cried. “This is amazing! He totally played me, and this is brilliant.”

The girls all didn’t quite get what I was saying, so I laid it out for them. I’ll do so here, without going into quotes and so forth to keep things moving.

To recap, John called with the sad news that he was leaving town. He offers me a free trip to see him in Toronto, at a date to be determined. He says he’s sorry to go and will call me when he gets to his next city. Says if I haven’t heard from him by said time period, to call or text him. He hangs up the phone and goes on his way.

In the meantime, he has never given me his actual contact information. Hell, I don’t know if his name is really John, if he’s really a pilot, or if he’s even from Canada. All I have for this guy is a hotel room phone number, and that room has been checked out of.
Now, in my early 20s, I would have been heartbroken about this. But once I hit my late-20s and 30s, I was incredibly impressed with the work that went into a subterfuge like this.

No, really! I promise.

The truth of the matter is, that John clearly had worked a plan like this before. New towns all the time, tons of girls to try this out on, and perfect the plan.

I guess the good news for me, is that all we did was make out. I didn’t give it up in the hopes of getting a free flight somewhere.

In the meantime, John, I tip my cap to you. You scammed me like a champion.

And I’m not even mad!

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Ashley Ragland