At a party in Battery Park City one night, I take the liberty of stepping out onto the host’s fire escape to light a cigarette. (Even though the long arm of the New York City smoking ban law might not extend to private residences, most people — especially nonsmokers — appreciate the courtesy. Besides, I don’t like sitting in a cloud of my own smoke anyway.)
Shortly after I light up out in the windy darkness, a head pops out the window and looks up at me. “Hey man, mind if I join you? You have an extra cigarette?”
After standing together in silence for a few drags, my fellow partygoer suddenly says,
“You won’t believe what happened to me the other night. So I went to the bodega to get a pack of cigarettes while my friend was picking up Chinese food around the corner. I’m standing in line, right, and I can clearly feel this dude behind me reach into my pocket and grab my wallet. I turn around and start to flip out at the guy, some cracked out asshole motherfucker just staring at me like, ‘Who, me?’ The guy behind the counter started to get involved, started yelling and screaming and pointing for this guy to get the fuck out of his store. So he finally sidles outta there, like he didn’t do nothing wrong and we’re the crazy ones, I buy my cigarettes, and I’m on my way.”
Nine dollars for a pack of cigarettes, you might as well have let the guy rob you.
“Yeah, but that’s not all. So my friend’s got the Chinese food, I’ve got my cigarettes, everything’s hunky dory and we’re walking home, and the same dude walks up to us. And he asks us for change! And then he asks me for a cigarette! And I’m like, ‘Dude, go fuck yourself. You just tried to rob me 10 seconds ago!’ And you know what he says? ‘Come on dog, you know I’d have your back.’ I mean, are you fucking kidding me? You’d have my back? You just tried to fucking take my wallet!”
My new friend shakes his head in disgust. “This city is fucking ridiculous sometimes.”