My pal Underbelly (that's his avatar, at right) recently visited New York from his small California home town, which he calls (I suppose with affection) Palookaville.
While here, he dared to ride the subway. Naturally, he was accosted by a well-spoken female panhandler. The experience left him scratching his head.
Hey Underbelly, this happens all the time on the subway here. Everybody and his drug addicted sister has a hard luck story. And while it’s illegal to pitch your tale of misfortune for money on public transportation, our mayor is too busy overturning election laws and spending $75 million or so on advertising aimed at convincing the voters he’s indispensable to bother enforcing the law.
Wait till you hear my own pitch!
Anyway, I get accosted by subway panhandlers so often that I’ve begun to fantasize about how I would make my own (illegal; they're all illegal) subway car pitch. It would be bullshit, of course, as are most of the subway panhandler pitches. But here’s what I’d say:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please. Until the financial meltdown I was a hard-working trader and arbitrageuer at a hedge fund, earning $839,000 per year, plus an average $3 million annual bonus.
"Unfortunately, due to the trading errors of others, we experienced a meltdown and I was let go on short notice. Furthermore, for some political reason instigated by those frothing-at-the-mouth taxpayers and politicians, I was robbed of my bonus, which this year would have come to $3,200,795. Over three mil out of my pocket! That's highway robbery!
It's a total bleeping tragedy!!!
"Now you've got to understand what a tragedy this is to me and my family. I have a son at Yale, another at Princeton, and my third wife has a daughter from her first marriage at Brearley. I owe $145,000 in tuition, room and board payments alone, not to mention the kids’ allowances and clothing budgets.
"My second ex-wife and her bloodsucking matrimonial lawyer are hounding me for the balance of the alimony payments I owe her, and the tax bill is coming due on my beach house in Bridgehampton.
"We’ve already had to fire the maid who takes care of the Park Avenue apartment, the caretaker in Bridgehampton, and cancel our lawn maintenance and swimming pool care contracts out there. Did I mention that we had to let the cook go? Leuba has been with us for 12 years, but I had no choice. We even had to cancel our annual gala and dinner party for 150 of our closest friends and get out of the catering contract with Daniel Boulud.
Save me from a life of crime
"Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to turn to a life of crime. I don’t want to mug you on the subway the way other people do, or establish any Bernie Madoff or Allen Stanford-style retirement funds. But I’m down to my last five million and I have to tell you, it’s hard out here for an arbitrageur. All I’m asking is that you reach into your pockets and contribute to helping me get back on my feet.
"Anything will help. A hundred dollar bill or three, even a few fifty dollar bills. I am also accepting bearer bonds and coupons if you still have any, and I will even accept your check for over $500. I am also accepting your donations of statement quality jewelry. Just put it in this MacDonald’s coffee cup I’m shaking as I walk down the aisle.
"Thank you, Godbless. Thank you, Godbless. Thank you, Godbless. Than…what the hell is this? An effing quarter? What the hell do you think I am, anyway?"