The first time I saw him was in the Indian Deli. He was wearing suit pants, and a pressed white shirt. He was at the counter waiting for his sandwich, and staring intently at his blackberry screen.
Without turning towards me, he says: D’ya believe that? They’ve just announced that they’re gonna freeze everyone’s assets.
As I say, he never turned to look at me, and I’m not sure he was talking to me, but I asked anyway: Freezed everyone’s assets? What assets?
They haven’t done it yet, but they’re going to freeze everyone’s assets over one million dollars. Personal assets.
And he continues to scroll the gizmo. Beads of sweat form on his forehead.
They can’t freeze anyone’s assets, I say. Nobody can do that.
Sure they can, he says. They did it during World War II.
He gets handed his sandwich, and still not taking his eyes from the blackberry he spreads some dollars on the counter and walks out of the store.
A week later and the same guy is at the counter. He’s got his blackberry out, but this time he’s telling the sandwich guy that he wants a poquito amount of mustard on his corned beef. He repeats the word po·qui·to one syllable at a time. The guy is just plain obnoxious. As if because he knows one Spanish word, he’s king of the universe – not to mention that this is the Indian Deli.
Suddenly, he asks: Hey – is your ATM machine working?
The sandwich guy tells him it’s working.
Silence for a while as he rolls through whatever he’s reading. Then he mumbles: Because they’re closing down all the ATMs. I’d better get some money quick.
This time I don’t even respond to him. He keeps repeating the same thing to himself. They can’t do that. They can’t close the ATMs. This is a disaster. A disaster.
His sandwich arrives and he darts out. He doesn’t stop at the ATM machine.
I don’t even check the ATM to see if it’s working. His ramblings are just implausible. But I wonder about this guy. He stays in my mind. What is he reading? I realize that the Internet is filled with idiotic rumors. But c’mon.
A few weeks later, he’s rushing out of the Indian Deli around the same time I’m about to go in. He’s got his trusted blackberry in his right hand – and as he almost bumps into me he mutters: The FDIC has just gone bankrupt! They’ve gone bankrupt!
Instead of going into the deli – I decide to follow this crazy guy. I just want to know where he works. He pauses in front of the liquor store, mostly looking at his blackberry – but doesn’t go in.
He’s easy to follow because he walks blindly – eyes on the screen. Fingers twirling the text.
We’re walking up third avenue towards Lex, when he finally makes a turn into – of all places – a small tax preparation storefront. It’s one of those places that’s only open around this time of year, with a big plate glass window that you can look through. He’s put his suit jacket back on and is sitting at his desk unwrapping his corned beef sandwich. Once it’s unwrapped, he holds it with one hand and holds the blackberry with the other.
Remind me not to get my taxes done there. I go back to the deli.
While I’m paying for the cat food, I ask Yogi (the owner) about this guy. Whether he’s always like that. He makes a circle sign with his finger on his temple indicating that the guy is loony. He says that the guy always thinks the sky is falling, and is very obnoxious – but luckily he’s only around during tax season. He doesn’t know where he goes the rest of the year.