November 8, 2011

The Perfect Crime

Sunday I heard a knock on my door sometime in mid-afternoon. I opened the door to find a small-framed woman around sixty looking back at me with a somber expression. She said something in Spanish when I interrupted her with, "No, no, Ingles."

Then she spoke in clear but semi-broken English, "I'm sorry to bother you, there was a tragedy in the building."
Me: "Really, what happened?"
Her: "A small child died in the building last night." (She was noticeably distraught.)
Me: "What? That's horrible, what happened?"
Looking as if she was going to cry she replied, "A small child bit into an electrical cord and was electrocuted."
Me: "Oh my God...That's terrible. What apartment?"
Her: "5-E." (while looking down at the ground)
Me: "What apartment do you live in?"
Her: "5-B."
Me: "Right across the hall."
Her: "Yes." After a pause she said, "We're collecting money for flowers for the family."

I stared at her with a concerned look...trying to read the validity of her emotions. I reached into my pocket. I had five one-dollar bills and two twenties. I unfolded and straightened out the five ones and held them out to her...then paused and said, "This isn't some sort of scam?"

She looked at me with a disappointed look as if wondering how I could think such a thing.

I handed her the cash. She looked down and quietly said, "Thank you," and turned and walked away. I watched her go around the corner leading to the steps. For a brief second I wondered why she didn't go to another apartment and then thought that maybe I was the last one she tried on the floor.

I closed the door and shook my head at what a sad tragedy that was. I also thought back to the night before trying remember what time I had gotten home, wondering if I would have seen all the commotion with police and paramedics. I was disappointed in my cynicism.

Today, just out of curiosity, I went over to the other side of the building and walked up the steps to the 5th floor. I saw a hispanic woman in the hallway, about 30 years old. I said, "Excuse me, did you hear anything about a child dying on the 5th floor yesterday?" She looked back at me surprised and said, "No, I haven't heard anything."

I paused and then slowly walked down the steps and had to smile to myself.

I realized that my cynicism was not unfounded. She was a pro, that poor, sad woman had hustled me. Wow, she was really good. Like, Oscar winning good.

No comments:

Post a Comment