On Saturday morning I left my periodontist's office and decided to go for a walk along Park Avenue.
"Excuse me!" I heard.
I turned around and saw a short, middle-aged woman, heavily made up --with a cigarette in her fingers.
"Can you help me at all?" she says.
"Uh, that depends."
"Well, I don't have a penny to my name," she replies. "Do you have 20 or maybe 10 you can give me?"
I was a little stunned by this. Who the hell asks strangers for $20 charity on the street? I can only think of three possibilities:
1) She thought I was rich.
After all, this was Park Avenue. And I guess if I were a more successful writer, well, you never know. But I looked as schlubby and unkempt as I have ever looked. (I mean, there's no chance that I looked like some rich hipster rock 'n' roller. At least, when I brought this up to a friend of mine, she quickly disabused me of the possibility.)
2) It was a lame bargaining tactic.
I suppose I could have said something along the lines of, "Twenty dollars? Are you joking? The most I can give you is, maybe, $2." Which, I suppose, might work. When asked for money by people on the street, I usually don't break out bills unless the person in question looks like a really hard luck case. (And pancake makeup with a cigarette in her hands, and a brash, bossy attitude does not make for a hard luck case in my eyes.) So this could have been her attempt to get me thinking in higher figures than I normally would.
3) She was on drugs.
Probably the best bet.
But regardless of the tactic, she overshot her mark pretty dramatically. "No!" I exclaimed (a little louder than I probably should have) and headed off to the subway.