Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Slam, Scam, Thank You Ma’am

This is not about Ringo. But as a postscript to a concert you leave on a high only to walk smack into a low, it rocks.

All flights—of fancy or reality—come down to earth. For four happy people hot off Ringo’s 70th at Radio City, the landing strip was the sidewalks of New York, on 6th Avenue. (Be it ever so hubristic, there’s no place like an Avenue of the Americas to a New Yorker. It’s 6th Avenue.)

Mantra-like rounds of “With a Little Help From My Friends” still ringoing in our eardrums, we’d barely taken ten steps when one of us, Dottie, seemingly still too on air to keep to her own space, inadvertently—or was it carelessly?—ran into a pedestrian coming from the opposite direction. Bear in mind I said “seemingly.”

On impact, a clear, plastic-hinged “deli” food container flew out of the man’s arms, tumbled downward to land with a crunchy thud, opened and scattered its contents on the pavement. “Oh.., my food!” despaired the forlorn victim in the face of our identifiable surfeit. His small portion of food lay at our feet, its spicy aroma admonishing us for our clumsy lapse of urbanity. The moment went to Dottie’s heart.

Dottie has been a New Yorker for two-and-a-half-years, i.e., not long enough to be a New Yorker. A young woman of eye-catching savoir
flair, we have to take it on faith that she comes from McKees Rocks, PA, population 6, 018, just outside of Pittsburgh. She works as a hostess at "Alice's Tea Cup" while plotting eventually to open her own edgy coffee shop.

Dottie’s heart went out to the poor man. Chagrined, she thrust her hand into her wallet and pulled a bill from it. His arm was outstretched before hers was. He took the bill, said thank you almost inaudibly, and departed.

We asked how much she gave him. A twenty, she said. When asked why so much, she explained it was all she had. Guilt pays—someone else.

We walked about ten yards—and ran into a small pile of food. Ironically, it looked like and smelled like the first pile. Something smelled rotten. We walked another ten or fifteen yards and found, yep, another small pile of food. We started to backtrack, passing glimpsing “Peace and Love” concertgoers and inspecting tourists. Mound by mound, we confirmed that Dottie’d been had. At a loss at the moment to do anything else, we took pictures of the food with our cell phone cameras and went to dinner.

As we recounted the hustle, a new one to us, over a good meal, the unfleeced three buying, Dottie described to us how she had seen the man coming toward her and tried to get out of his way, but couldn’t—he just kept coming at her. So much for “seemingly”—she wasn’t at all remiss, or careless, or oblivious. She was scammed! We were all taken in. And Dottie E. of McKees Rocks, PA, is $20 closer to being a New Yorker.


  1. [NB: "Anonymous" is currently Tom Bisky's nom de plume -- which is French for: "Not your fault, Ray, but I still can't figure out the 'Comment as' posting system."]

    Ray --

    Your posts are always beautifully written, but this one is exceptional.

    And the content puts me in mind of three New York sidewalk scams to which I've fallen victim -- once each:

    1) A guy at 6th Avenue and Tenth Street stops you, and explains that he is the chief costume designer/dresser for a show currently on Broadway. He needs to get 40 blocks uptown to the theater for the next performance -- but, alas, he has just discovered he left his wallet home, and he has no spare time to go there first. No, Kind Sir, mere subway fare won't be enough, because he has to haul a big armload of delicate, impeccably ironed costumes that are, at this very moment, being safeguarded by a friendly counterman in that deli -- yes, that one -- up the street. So, only a cab-fare-level contribution will suffice: “The producers of our show will be so relieved and grateful to you, Sir, for coming to my rescue. I’m sure they’ll want to reward you . . .”

    2) Perhaps the oldest one in the book: The supplicant has just had his/her pocket picked (or purse snatched), and now lacks the money to get home -- via bus, PATH train, or whatever combination thereof -- to some place in bucolic Central New Jersey, where she/he will certainly think twice before coming into this wicked city again anytime soon . . .

    The third scammer was -- and still is -- in a class by himself. Ten years ago, on a corner of Rockefeller Plaza, he somehow managed to sell me a "free" baseball cap for $10. I don't remember a single detail of his spiel. I just recall thinking that ten bucks didn't seem all that much for a sturdy-seeming baseball cap. Plus, I really wanted to get away from the guy, so it amounted to "hush" money I was glad to pay. Today, if I were in put in charge of giving a lifetime achievement award to New York's most brazen, balls-out scammer, he would win hands-down. From time to time, I pass the same Rock Plaza corner -- and he's still there, with his baseball caps in hand. For at least a decade, he's been scamming royally, at one of the nerve centers of New York tourism. In fact, he's a "nerve" center unto himself, because he's never more than a few yards from one (or more) of New York's Finest. So, if any of us ever really gets this guy's number, we should retire it. Among Gotham's major-league scam artistes, he's like Ruth and DiMaggio rolled into one.

    Hats -- or caps -- off to you, Ray, for another superb, thought-provoking post.

    My best,

  2. Dear God... I would have fallen for that hook, line and sinker!

    Ah well. At least Dottie got to find out that she is a good person for only $20.

  3. Dottie, please don't let one scam artist make you skeptical of others in need. You are an angel in my eyes.

  4. This is a guy I would like to put out of business.

  5. The truly lovely thing about Dottie is that she would do it, again, just in case she really was at fault... One of your most beautifully written pieces, dad...!

  6. Hi Ray,

    Great article as usual.

    As the man approached me, I would look up at the clock and say, "Steeler's game starts in 10 minutes, got to go, bye..."

    Reality show coming--"Scaming for dollars"

    Those people, that are really in need, are the one's being scammed the most by those impostors.