The Flimflam Man


I can’t help but observe. I’ve always been that way, as far as I recall. I like to watch people, write their stories in my head, try to understand what’s happening.

And oh brother, there’s a lot to watch these days. Social media alone could keep me enthralled forever, observing behavior that somehow, somehow, thinks on some level that it’s invisible. I don’t get it. It’s fascinating.

I’ve been observing my hospitalized friend, of course. It feels important, particularly since his family back east occasionally call for an update, and call me. I should be paying attention.

And I’ve been watching his mental status, since he’s been at times heavily medicated and just stuck inside a room for nearly a month. I’d guess he’s probably 90, 95% of normal, given everything, which seems pretty good. He’s occasionally confused, but then there are a lot of confusing aspects of this. He sees a lot of caregivers, etc.

But what he was seeing and perceiving from a hospital bed was on my mind, and imagining how I’d endure such a long, boring period without being able to move. I began to think that it was analogous to Plato’s cave, which I remember only vaguely from college. He sees a minimal amount, although he watches TV sometimes and seems to know the major news of the day. I tell him more when we talk, update him about the weather and such.

It was in thinking about this, though—trying to understand reality when you can only see shadows and hear echoes—that I realized this has been on my mind for a while. Superficial observation. Deception. Trickery.

I wrote a column yesterday about a conversation with son regarding the word flimflam. I like this word. I have my reasons. It wasn’t much of a conversation, but we covered the bases, and it stuck around in my brain, this notion of deception.

A flimflam man is a grifter, a low-level con man who preys on the gullible and the greedy. It’s a verb, a noun, and an adjective, although eventually all English words will be all things. It’s still a fun word, although not so much if no one uses it but me.

Flimflamming is what we’ve got, though. They want the same thing, money, but their scams are all about the clicks, and the reward feeds your ego and not your wallet. That’s never been a bad technique, appealing to ego.

One of those Facebook friends we all have, someone we sort of know but really don’t, sent me a message yesterday. She hadn’t seen my name in a while and was concerned. Kind of nosy, I guess, but it felt right and authentic, just someone who noticed. I explained to her that I was doing a little experiment in disengagement for Lent, and she seemed reassured and satisfied, saying she’d look for me in a few weeks.

Here’s the thing—I’m not sure she’ll find me. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but other than a handful of likes and a couple of housekeeping updates my activity has been zilch. The results have been predictable and comforting, really. My life is busy right now and I appreciate losing the compulsion to join the fray, but I don’t think this is a bad thing and I’m not sure I understand how to be a moderate user. It’s human nature, or maybe my nature, to react to stimuli, doesn’t matter where or when. I wouldn’t know how to do it only a little.

It doesn’t matter, anyway. If anything, I’ve learned that. A Facebook fast like this just points out the obvious, that social media is a game of three-card Monte. It’s a flimflam man, and I’ve seen my share.

Chuck SigarsComment