This past week was marked by two remarkable events, each of which puts the lie to what most people think about New York.
In the mind of many, this great and obnoxious city is the toughest, most frenetic and heartless spot on the planet. New Yorkers, they say, have tortoiseshell for skin and are as grumpy and unfriendly as the sharp and grisly denizens of Paris. You gotta watch out for ’em. Those of us who actually live here know better, but we also know that there’s no denying that this town has a couple of rough edges, and after a while you learn not to expect too much from it. That way you’re not disappointed.
Last week, I had dinner with my friend Dworkin. He’s one of those guys who does fine in business, but he’d lose his nose if it wasn’t attached to his moustache. At any rate, that night we got to the restaurant and the moment he sat down he starts feeling around in his pockets and says to me, “Uh-oh. I think I lost my wallet.” This really annoyed me. My whole day is nothing but drama. I’m looking forward to a few hours where the only controversy will be whether to have a third drink after the second. And now this. So we have dinner and the whole time he’s, of course, obsessed with where it is, where he’s been, who he can call, that kind of thing. You know what it’s like to lose something like that. You feel like a schmuck. You want to look under the streetlights not because you know the wallet is there, but because that’s where the light is.
That night, Dworkin went back to his office to see if the wallet was there. It wasn’t. He was so desperate he actually locked himself in his office tower by mistake and had to be rescued by somebody in possession of a working security card. His had been in his wallet. Not really believing it would do any good, at about 11 PM, I called the car service that had taken us to the restaurant. Asked them if anybody had left a wallet in the car. There was a long hold while they checked. They came back on. “Yes, sir,” said Lafcadio. “We have it. If your friend comes back to our dispatcher anytime before midnight, he may pick it up.”
That’s exactly what he did. All the money, credit cards and other stuff was intact. Nothing was missing. Amazing, huh?
Now consider this: Last night my wife and I were scheduled to go out to dinner. She called me at about 6:30 PM, very upset. That’s right. She couldn’t find the little silver mesh purse that contained … well, everything. In this case, it was quite serious because in addition to all the credit cards and cash, the case contained her driver’s license, which she will need to fly later this week. We called here. We called there. We called everywhere. No luck.
At 6:55 PM, just before she was going to leave for dinner, she received an e-mail. It was from a woman who lives about ten blocks from our apartment. Seems the night before last her 16-year-old son found a silver mesh purse in a taxi. He took it home because he was, in his words, “afraid somebody would steal it.” His mom saw the purse, which contained a card with our information on it, and sent the e-mail. Ten minutes later, my wife had the purse, with everything in it, including her Tic Tacs. Nothing was taken.
Two losses. With nothing lost. No rewards asked for, although some small ones were given. I come away with one thought in mind: If people who make millions of dollars a year were as honest as people who do not, we all might be a whole lot better off.