Not long ago, I moved to Brooklyn from Minneapolis, looking for a drastic change in my life and career. Just before the move, I realized I was missing some things for my new life, like a good pair of walking shoes. Moments later, Zappos.com helped me find this sweet new pair of stylish and comfortable Pumas.
Fast forward three months. It was a beautiful summer day and I was enjoying one of my favorite new rituals: taking the train to Washington Square Park and reading or drawing in my sketchbook. I’m an animator and illustrator, and on this particular day, I was deep into sketching, focused, making the lines just right. It was hot, and I had a huge iced mocha by my side. Goddamn it was delicious. Every few minutes, I’d reach over and take a sip without even looking. My head was buried in my drawing.
Until, that is, I heard a soft, well-spoken voice break in: “Excuse me. I don’t mean to bother you, but I just wanted to let you know that you have beautiful shoes.”
I looked up to find a normal guy, smiling, skateboard in hand. “Thanks,” I said. Then I looked down at my shoes. Huh, I thought. I don’t know if beautiful is quite the word, but I guess I did make a good choice on these awesome shoes! Then I looked up again. The guy was already skating away, giving me a slight nod as he raced off. That was nice, I thought. Just a friendly encounter in the park.
And then I reached over for another automatic sip of my mocha – and felt my hand hit the bench. I looked over. The cup was gone. What? It took a few seconds to register, but I realized this guy just pulled the old point and grab: in the time it took for me to consider a stranger’s unexpected compliment about my exquisite taste in footwear, said stranger somehow stole what was left of my mocha. I looked up again to see my admirer, skating away, calm and cool, tossing back the last third of my icy thirst quencher.
After the shock came anger. That’s my goddamn mocha! Then came confusion. The dude looked like an NYU student, not a street urchin. What kind of regular guy in Ray Bans is ready for some streetwise legerdemain? And by the way, what an odd scam: I mean, who wants to go to all that trouble to get a hold of the last two fingers of some other guy’s mocha? Finally, a certain calm came over me. Initially, I wanted to run after him, but I started respecting the guy’s audacity. If you think about, he really earned that mocha bottom. And he was willing to risk a lot for it, right there, in public, for all to see. It was impressive, and I kind of wanted to congratulate him for being such a crazy scamp. Instead, I gave him a wink in my mind and went back to my sketchbook. I was mocha-less, but glad to be a mark. Because now I have a great story to tell about these shoes.
Scott Berglund is an animator and illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY.