In New York City, anything can happen at any moment. You could pet a dog on the street, see a celebrity (Drew Lachey, anyone?), or step in something disgusting. The only guaranty in this city is that you will learn something new and build new character every single day, whether you like it or not.
I usually do not like it. I remember one slow, Monday night when I was a brand new baby New Yorker waiting tables at the downtown pub. I had one lovely family come in and sit down in the sparsely populated restaurant. They were tourists. We made friends.
Just as I was finishing up my last few tables and hoping I could leave a little early, these two young guys came in. They were skinny, young; at the forefront of the hipster movement in jogging shorts and striped polos. They were polite and asked if they could sit down. I was annoyed at getting a table so late in the night, but I noticed one twitching and fidgeting and realized I was terrible for being impatient with someone who obviously had a neurological disease at such a young age. Chiding myself for being too cynical, I was extra nice as I took their orders.
When I turned back to the bar to get their beers, those two polite pre-hipsters jumped up and grabbed the check presenter full of cash that the nice tourist family had just put down on their table and sprinted out the door. The bartender, Donna, jumped out from behind the bar and sprinted after them. Stunned, I threw down my tray and sprinted after her.
After running full speed for a block, we stopped, accepting that they’d gotten away. I don’t know what we would have done if we’d caught them, except maybe be viciously attacked by two scrawny but desperate drug addicts. Donna was pissed. She was pissed at me for not keeping a better eye on my cash, those kids for stealing from us, and at the three ex-cops sitting at her bar who watched the whole thing go down and were sitting in the exact same spots when she and I came breathlessly back into the bar.
The family of tourists sat at their table, mouths agape. They left me a generous tip, made all the more generous by the fact that they’d already tried to tip me once. They were tactfully concerned, but pretty stoked to have such a good story to tell when they got home. I quickly cashed out and headed uptown. I am often amazed I survived my first year in the city, considering my Nerf-sharp wits were all I had to protect me. I like to think I’ve grown and matured so much, but since I (soberly) lost a really nice pair of shoes in the subway last week, I’ll hold my smugness for now.