I was walking down Market Street after a music rehearsal, on my way to an ATM to see if a check had cleared, thereby enabling me to buy dinner, cigarettes, and beer. A 70-ish African American man stepped in front of me, shouting, “You’re next!”
He wanted to shine my shoes. For some reason, this stopped me in my tracks. My shoes, I felt, were not really worthy of shining. They were cheap shoes, purchased last summer, but durable, and comfortable. Sneakers, one might call them. I wear them every day, and I suddenly realized that I LIKED these shoes.
Clearly the shoe shine guy was an aggressive marketer, if you know what I mean. He informed me that he had been shining shoes for thirty years. “But these shoes…?” I objected. “A man’s got to be proud of his shoes,” he said. I thought about it for half a second. “I only have three bucks,” I said. “Sit down,” he ordered.
So I sat down. And I had another realization that I had never had my shoes shined professionally before. I had shined my own shoes, of course, in anticipation of getting laid, or impressing an employer, or not getting fired because I had shoddy footwear. But this was the first time I had ever actually sat down at a shoe shine stand, and had my shoes shined.
The shiner would glance up from time to time during his work to check out the shoes of the passers by, and shout at them to come on over, get a shine. He was largely ignored, but one man, a large blonde man with tassled loafers said he would be back.
The shoeshine guy muttered, “He won’t be back. They never come back.”
After my shine – and I have to admit, my poor dog-covering armor looked great – I hopped on the BART, and discovered at the end of my ride that my wallet was missing. My pocket had been picked! I said as much to the BART authorities, who let me go (bless their hearts), but seemed remarkably incurious about the circumstances of the theft.
I walked home, feeling not depressed, but strangely exhilarated. I had had two urban experiences I had never had before! My shoes shined, and my pocket picked, both on the same day! Inside the same hour!
I cancelled my bank card, and was making a list of stuff I remembered that lived in my wallet that I had to deal with. I stepped outside to smoke a smoke, when the doorbell rang, which I did not hear. Returning inside, I found my commiserating wife with my wallet.
Apparently it had fallen out of my back pocket and wedged into the seat on the BART. Some Samaritan had found it and dropped it off. There was no money in it, so the Samaritan could not have received a reward even had he desired it.
I was glad to have my wallet back, yet oddly disappointed. After all, I would have had two unique urban experiences in an hour if my pocket had been picked. Instead, I had an even more rare urban experience. A kind soul had come to my door to return my wallet, which had not been stolen, but merely lost.
So I am not a crime victim. Just a moron. And the team of goniffs, molls, and grifters I had invented in my mind vanished in a puff of smoke.
IN OTHER NEWS!
I am in the throes of mounting my new show, SLOUCHING TOWARDS DISNEYLAND, which premieres on November 8th at the Marsh in San Francisco. Go to www.themarsh.org for full info. And, if you’re in the Bay Area, come. It’s gonna be a great show. Be back to blogging when, you know, I’ve memorized lines, finalized schtick, and otherwise prepared myself for the full media onslaught that will ensue when this show finally melts the minds of America. I can’t wait!