So then…I grab a seat, wedging myself between two other passengers on the subway car, as we barrel toward midtown Manhattan.
It’s not too crowded, so everyone has a seat as we calmly pass the time reading, avoiding eye contact, or staring blankly at the subway ads for plastic surgery and STDs.
Just then, a woman in her 50’s enters from the back of the subway car and quietly hands a pen to each passenger with a little note attached. She looks very sad as she works her way down the row of passengers.
The note says, “I am deaf. Please help me by buying this pen for $1. If you don’t want the pen, I will come back to pick it up. Thank you.”
Some people dig in their pockets and purses for a buck; others simply hold the pen until she comes back around for it.
She’s about halfway through collecting dollars or pens, when a conductor enters the back of the subway car and loudly announces: “Ladies and gentlemen, do NOT give this woman any money.”
Gasp! My head snaps up. Other passengers look startled! How heartless!
Is this subway employee going to tell us solicitations are against regulations? This poor deaf lady’s just trying to raise a little money!
The passengers stare at the conductor.
He continues, in a very cynical, world-weary tone, “This woman is not deaf. She has never been deaf. I have seen her speak and hear just as well as you and I. Do NOT give her any money.”
GASP! Now we all stare at the lady.
She whirls around and shouts at him in a garbled tone, “Howm day-ra you! I AMMN duffh! I AMMN duffh!”
DOUBLE GASP! She IS deaf!
How dare he accuse her of faking it! Just listen to her! She talks just like deaf people talk in movies!! Omigod, this conductor is cruel!
We all glare at the merciless conductor.
The conductor stares straight at her and says:
“If you’re deaf, how did you hear me say that BEHIND you?”
GASP GASP GASP!!!!
OMIGOD! Touché, conductor, touché!
Now our heads all whip toward the woman! Half of us are still clutching pens or dollars – mesmerized as this melodrama unfolds.
It’s like Wimbledon up in here with our heads whipping back and forth between the two players throwin’ down on the court of public opinion!
She scowls at him with an odious expression, turns on her heel, and storms out of the subway car into the next one in a blaze of fury!
He shakes his head wearily, then slowly follows behind her to thwart her next attempt.
As the subway door closes behind them, we all look at each other in awe.
We’re not sure whether we should applaud or not. It was like a mini-drama played out right before our eyes – a live street performance with a roller coaster of emotions encompassing pity, shock, anger, dismay, outrage – and finally the revelation!
Subway Theatre presents:
The Deceitful “Deaf” Lady
and the Crusading Conductor
Shows at 10:30, 2:45 and 4:15 daily
Admission: $1 (or not)
Damn, I love New York: every place, a stage – every person, a character – live theatre at its most authentic!
— Darcy Perdu
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(Heard of any similar cons or scams? Any interesting New York stories? Do tell!)