On a recent evening, I return home and see a woman’s black leather clutch bag lying on the floor in the hallway across from my apartment’s door. This is not a common site and I wonder if there is some crime scene element here. With this in mind, I instantly feel a bit queasy. I also think of the recording that I frequently hear while riding the subway:
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is an important message from the New York City Police Department. Keep your belongings in your sight at all times. Protect yourself.
If you see a suspicious package or activity on the platform or train, do not keep it to yourself. Tell a police officer or an MTA employee.
Remain alert and have a safe day.”
What do I do in this post-9/11 world when the suspicious package is a woman’s purse right outside my door? Telling a cop seems rash and mentioning this situation to an MTA employee is not an option since a subway stop has yet to be built into my brownstone. Then I wonder if this is a Candid Camera situation? I recall watching an episode where the camera was hidden inside a mailbox. This was hilarious to my younger self. At this moment, I am feeling zero levity. Am I being tested to see how I react? I look around, but have no idea where cameras could be hiding.
Back to the purse lying before me, I look at it, but do not touch it. It looks plump. Is there an explosive in it from a reader that hates my blog so much, they’re channeling their inner Unabomber? Or is it even worse? Is it full of the current scourge of New York, bedbugs?
With these questions racing through my mind, I shoot a photograph.
As I am focusing my camera, I can hear someone inside my neighbor’s apartment. In recent weeks, he has had guests visiting from Greece. I knock on his door. Whoever is inside stops milling around. I knock again.
The occupant, a person of indeterminate gender, responds with an irritated, accented, monosyllabic grunt. I think, “Great. This person only speaks Greek.” My neighbor is bilingual so he must not be in.
Me: Can you please open the door? I think you might have dropped something important.
The door opens and I am face to face with a handsome middle age woman. I deduce that she is my neighbor’s mother. It is evident that she resents my intrusion. Although she does not look like she is going to throw a punch at me, she does have a “you better make this quick” look in her eye.
Neighbor’s Mother: What?
As much as I’d like to exploit this opportunity to recite my favorite poem, Pointy Birds, I cut to the chase.
Me (pointing at the purse): Is that yours?
Neighbor’s Mother’s jaw hits the floor and she emits a gasp so loud it echoes in the hall. Instantly, I’m her best friend, maybe not forever, but surely at that moment.
Neighbor’s Mother: Thank you! I had no idea I dropped it!
I’m relieved that it’s not a bomb, so I do not have to take any further action, but I do find this clip of Steve Martin reciting Pointy Birds to Kathleen Turner in this touching scene from The Man with Two Brains.