Lessons From A New York Vagrant
This month’s guest blogger is Daniel Friedland, author of Down Aisle Ten, a fictional history of Universal Simultaneous Anxiety Collapse Disorder, an incapacitating disease that arises from the abundant fears that surround us in the modern world.
So what’s with the
cock rooster on the front cover? Doesn’t he look like he wants to poke your eyes out? (It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.)
But I digress.
Dan is offering a copy of his book to one lucky commenter. Read his piece here today, and check out what you need to do to win below.
Oh! And you can follow Daniel on Twitter at @djfriedland or via his Facebook page.
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Lessons From a New York Vagrant by Daniel Friedland
Times Square wasn’t always Disneyland. There were no shrimp-themed restaurants or toy stores and it was nothing like the family friendly carnival scene it is today. In the Times Square of my youth, vagrants greeted you with alcohol breath, strip club promoters offered dirty flyers, and litter collected on the curbs. It was the heart of New York’s seedy side, a hub of ill repute, and when I was seventeen years old and wanted a fake I.D., Times Square was where I went.
I can’t recall how I ended up in that Wendy’s.
The man must have whispered something about fake I.D.s as I walked down the sidewalk. Now inside the restaurant, he leaned over the table and promised he could get me what I wanted. But there was one important question he needed to ask first.
Was I a cop?
This idea was ludicrous. I had fluffy hair, string bracelets around my wrist, and a telltale suburban naiveté. I was about to deny working at 21 Jump Street when the man extended his hand to my face and instructed me to sniff his fingers. It was an odd and unexpected development, but I was forced to agree with the stated proposition. Yes – his hand did smell like pot. This olfactory evidence, he explained, proved he wasn’t an undercover officer. I accepted this conclusion.
Now that his bona fides were established, my new acquaintance began asking me questions. Where did I go to school? Was I related to anyone in the police department? Did I have a recording device on me? Would I tell anyone about him? Withering under his interrogation, I discarded all sense entirely. He had me right where he wanted me.
When he said he needed to check the bills in my wallet to make sure the serial numbers weren’t traceable, I handed him all of my money.
Let me repeat that one more time – I handed him all of my money so he could check the serial numbers.
Give it a moment to waft over you. Feel the full breadth of my humiliation.
I feel compelled to note that I am not generally a stupid person. I sometimes make witty conversation, I can solve a Wednesday crossword puzzle in the New York Times, (I’m working toward Sunday!) and I have never mailed cash to help out a Nigerian prince. Yet on that fateful day, I fell prey to a classic trick of misdirection, duped by an unexpected turn and a narrative I could not control. My folly became clear to me when the door to Wendy’s closed and the man disappeared into the crowd.
It was a good lesson for a modest price – stay focused.
And if there’s a secondary moral to be gleaned, perhaps I shouldn’t have been looking for that fake I.D.
Of course, nowadays my wallet stays in my front pocket, and it has been years since I’ve stepped foot inside a Wendy’s. Yet no matter how much time passes, I’ll always be just another victim of the old Times Square. Long live its seedy memory.
To enter to win a copy of Down Aisle Ten, leave a comment about a time when you were absolutely humiliated by someone else. That’s right, spill your own #SoWrong moment. Either that or confess your favorite fast food restaurant and what you like to eat there.
Tweet us @rasjacobson & @djfriedland