Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tales from the City.

The New York Times has a regular feature on Mondays for readers' anecdotes and observations, some of them highly entertaining and some of them terminally banal and self-serving.

My favorite ever was the story of a young woman, dressed like a punk, who had hailed a cab. She was about to step into it when an older woman in business attire slipped in front of her and started to climb in instead.

"Excuse me," says the punk politely, "but don't you think it's rude to take my cab?"

The older woman barely paused. "Hey, this is New York," she sneered. "You gotta hustle."

Whereupon the punk grabbed her, dragged her out of the cab, and threw her and briefcase onto the sidewalk. Then she went off in her cab.

For sheer chutzpah in cab-claiming, you can't beat an event from my days at Citibank. A colleague of mine had just secured a cab on Park Avenue for a lunchtime trip, when she heard, "Young woman, I'm sure you weren't thinking of taking that taxi ahead of me."

It was the booming voice of an older woman, a formidable harridan who spent her time as a corporate gadfly, who had just emerged from the Bank's annual general meeting and was a good twenty yards back. My colleague was so stunned by the blast of sheer authority that she meekly stood aside, waited for the woman to waddle over, and then held the door open for her.

My own tale -- which I never submitted to the Times,  but there doesn't seem to be a statute of limitations -- happened about twenty years ago. I was walking on the Upper West Side on a Sunday afternoon, past a small restaurant that was disgorging brunchers. Two women, possibly mother and daughter, were discussing another woman they'd clearly just dined with.

"And she had such a lovely voice," said the older lady.

"Well, she is a ballerina," replied the younger.

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