Ron Rosenbaum

Sex, Money, Manicures: A New York Street Encounter Mystery

An attractive woman of my acquaintance who often finds herself the object of lame pick up lines from New York men told me this story recently, one whose true meaning even she could not be sure of. Was it on the level or a new depth of sleaze?

It seems she was walking up Third Avenue after having gotten a pedicure and she was hailed by a man who’d just had a manicure (as Nora Ephron says in her new book there seem to be more nail salons than nails in New York these days). The pedicure/manicure detail is not entirely irrelevant as will become apparent.

In any case she heard a male voice behind her call out “Miss!”. Now usually this is a signal she would merely ignore and walk faster. But the voice called out again with a strange request. “Miss, I’ve just had a manicure would you put these bills in my pocket?”

Perhaps sensitized by her recent not-yet-dried pedicure she turned around to see a chunky guy in his 30’s in casual attire. He was holding up his hand, which, she said, had clearly been recently manicured, and in that hand was a sheaf of dollar bills.

It was problem she recognized–not-yet-dried-manicures make handling ordinary items a special problem. The bills could have been change from the manicure transaction.

And yet, “Would you put these bills in my pocket,”? Come on! Pretty sketchy on the face of it.

She said, senibly enough,”Um, no”

“Sorry,” she added, feeling a little bad for not being helpful in what might have been a legitmate manicure-related situation. After all she had just had a pedicure so was sensitized to the problem involved. (Could he have known about, or intuited that?). Still she was wary enough not to entertain the thought of putting her hand in a strangers pocket.

And then he said, “I’m a cop.”

What did that mean?

Was it intended to reassure her. You’re in good hands. I’m not a sleazeball molester?

On the other hand (pun intended) I suggested, worst case scenario, maybe–if he was a cop, it would allow him to threaten to arrest her as a pickpocket if she had her hand in his pocket with his bills in it. And after threatening arrest he would have her in his power. What would she say to the magistrate, “I was putting some money in his pocket?

She was not reassured by “I’m a cop”, since he didn’t seem like the detective type– often. in New York City, detectives can be a bit dandyish, the aristocrats of cops, manly manicure types. But on the other hand the incident happened in the vicinitiy of the Police Academy in that neighborhood, so he could have been a cop. But either way, she just hurried away.

What does this whole incident mean? The lengths that New York men will go to devise disarming pick up lines? Was it an opportunistic, spur-of-the-moment, one-time manicure-related pick-up try.? Or had it been tried before and been successful, either as a conversational gambit or something worse?

I don’t see a “Law and Order” episode here, but a typically uneasy, hard-to-fathom New York street encounter that raises questions about the uneasy relations between men and women, strangers with naill polish.

What do you think?