Monday, September 22, 2014

The Case of the Found $50,000

Last week, my east coast doppelgänger George Tannenbaum told a great story about his grandfather, Morris, the worst tailor on the face of the Earth.

As is often the case, his Hebraic recollections of growing up in the Bronx, and in NY at large, fuel stories of my own.

My grandfather was also from the old country. Though when I speak with the few remaining relatives that are still among us, that old country always seems to change.

Sometime it's Poland and sometimes it's nearby shtetl's of Russia, Belarus or Ukraine.

The confusion is understandable as even today those borders are fluid at best.

They're also meaningless.

These were all ugly, cold, dirty villages populated by poor Jews who did their best to keep food on the table and keep out of the way of local, drunken goyim bent on beating up members of the tribe. I suppose it was a way to make them feel better about their own miserable lives.

So the beat up Jews got on a boat and came to America where they could get pounded on by a higher class of drunk.

Unskilled and uneducated, my grandfather drove a cab in NYC. I don't know how he afforded a hack license, as they were very expensive, but he did. And he made a living. Enough to sustain a family of three boys as well as the care and feeding of many racehorses at the Belmont track in Queens.

Once, the old man -- a sedentary chain smoker with an appetite for fatty creamed herring -- was staying at our house. He was recovering from his 7th heart attack, that's right 7, we Jews might have been defenseless against Cossacks but we can kick the shit out of cardiac arrest.

We happened to be watching TV story about a NYC cab driver who returned a briefcase with $50,000 in cash to its rightful owner. The cabbie was given a hearty Thank You and a crisp hundred dollar bill in return for his honesty and good will.

During a commercial break for Rheingold the dry beer, Rheingold is my beer, think of Rheingold whenever you buy beer, I turned to my grandfather.

"Would you have done that? Would you have called back the owner to get his briefcase full of money?"

"Absolutely," he replied.

Explaining, if some business guy was in my cab and I saw that he just left a briefcase with fifty thousand dollars in the back seat, I'd grab the case immediately.

Then, as he was walking away, I'd roll up my window. I'd grab a fluffy towel, fold it nicely and put it up against the window.

Then I would knock on that fluffy towel.

And if he didn't hear the knock, I would knock even harder.

He made the slightest tapping gesture.

Then, if he didn't hear me pounding my knuckle on the towel pressed lightly against the glass, I'd shout.

"Hey mister you forgot your briefcase full of cash," he whispered.

Like this and I repeated his whisper.

"Oh no, that's way too loud. Like this," he replied. "Hey mister…" 

In a voice that was impossible to hear.

Of course, nobody with a briefcase of cash ever got in my grandfather's cab. And I doubt he ever got within a mile of that much money.

So his menschiness was never put in question.

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