Wednesday, April 27, 2016


It's easy getting distracted in New York, especially when one is as easily distracted as me. I was on errands this morning, walking south on First Avenue when, on the corner of 84th Street, I saw two 20-somethings dressed in yuppie casual and expensive backpacks getting into a cab. Two 50-somethings in work clothes stood in front of the cab to prevent it from moving.

One of the 50s -- let's call him Bob -- was explaining to the cabbie why he wasn't getting out of the way. The other 50 -- call him Jack -- let him do all the talking. Between the usual ambient sounds and being several feet away, I couldn't hear what Bob was saying. It didn't take me long, however, to figure that the older pair were union guys, and the younger guys weren't. 
Not for a couple of yuppie scabs.

The cabbie tried to reason with Bob, to no avail. And being a union guy himself, the cabbie should have known better. Eventually, the yuppies got out of the cab and started walking south, Bob and Jack on their tail.

Do you blame me for following them? 

The same routine played out again on the corner of 83rd, honking horns be damned. This time, I could hear Bob tell the cabbie, "They're taking our jobs, now they're taking yours!" 

Something else the yuppies were now taking was advantage of Bob's distraction, getting out of the cab and into another that was approaching. It would have worked -- in a Three Stooges movie, maybe -- but not here, not now. 

The yuppies didn't even bother to wait for Bob and Jack's human yellow tape routine. Wearing nervous smiles -- Hey, New York sure is crazy, isn't it? -- they walked east on 83rd, Bob and Jack on their tail. 

I had no dog in this fight, no horse in this race, no elephant in this parade. All I was wondering was, How the hell much longer is thing going to last? And so I continued to pursue them, while staying a safe distance behind.

Bob and Jack didn't appear threatening -- I don't think they were even talking to the guys -- but they were there. In showbiz parlance, they had presence. 

As they reached the end of the block, they turned north on York Avenue. By now, I was getting hungry for my mid-morning snack. I considered ducking into Dunkin' Donuts for a pick-me-up, but didn't want to lose these guys. If I allow anything to interrupt my mid-morning snack, you know it better be for a good reason.

Two thoughts were now occurring to me. 1) My errands were on hold indefinitely. 2) If these yuppies had any sense, they'd just go the Lexington Avenue subway. As big as they were, Bob and Jack would probably think twice about jumping on the tracks to block the #6 train. 

"Who, me? I'm just waiting for a bus!"
Perhaps the yuppies came to the same conclusion, because they now turned west on 86th. But upon reaching First Avenue, they stood at the corner waiting for a cab. (Don't these guys ever learn?) I ducked behind the MTA map at the bus stop, trying to be as inconspicuous as one can be while wearing a 1940s-style fedora in 2016.

Having no luck catching a ride, everybody wound up walking north, turning west onto 87th. We had almost reached Lexington Avenue when the yuppies stopped in their tracks, turned around, and went to a parked cab with a Sikh driver behind the wheel. They probably thought a guy in a turban and black beard had the ability to make his car fly. 

Bob went into his "they're taking your jobs" spiel while Jack hung back as usual. Perhaps showing deference to the driver's religion, Bob appeared to be pretty polite, explaining his side of the story more quietly than he did with the previous drivers.

Again, the yuppies left the cab and walked toward Lexington -- only this time there appeared to be a rewrite in the works. "I know what they're doing," Bob told Jack. "They're going to jump in the cab when it turns." 

Well sir, the yuppies jumped into the Sikh's cab when it turned onto Lexington alright -- but not before Bob and Jack got in front of it. Lexington being more crowded than First Avenue, I wasn't the only one watching this Upper East Side drama play out now. So was a cop double-parked behind the cab.

The driver got out to plead his case to the cop before Bob gave his side of the story. I was watching this from across the street, unable to hear what was said. All I knew was that the yuppies now had the perfect opportunity to jump out of the Sikh's cab and into one of many others driving on Lexington. There was no way Bob and Jack would have been able to get in front of it on time.

There was also no way the yuppies were that smart.

And so it continued. Yuppies leave the cab, Bob and Jack follow -- right toward the subway entrance. Here's your chance to make a break for it! It was a chance ignored. For all their college education, these guys were idiots. I ran across the street as they turned west on 86th toward Park. 

For some reason, things came to a stop outside Best Buy, the yuppies apparently trying to figure out their next move. For the first time, Bob looked at me and laughed, "You're following me, too!"

OK, he's smiling, he's not going to hurt me.

Jack was standing near the subway entrance -- ready to block the yuppies if necessary? -- when I got up the nerve to go up to him. "Hi, I, uh, just wanted to see how long this was going to last. You mind if I ask what's going on?"

"We're Verizon workers," Jack replied. They've been on strike in New York because management, after happily accepting labor's concessions a few years back during the recession, wanted even more now that the economy was better. (While I can't recall his every word, you can go here to get the lowdown.) The yuppies were new workers, getting half the salary. Other positions in the company were being outsourced.

Jack went on to explain that he and Bob were following the scabs to remind them that they couldn't just come in take other people's jobs. Having lost my job through outsourcing, I told him, I knew what he was going through. 

The cop on Lexington Avenue, Jack then informed me, didn't do anything because he understood what this was all about. Clearly, these yuppies didn't have a friend in town. 

"Y'know," I said, "I couldn't figure out why they didn't just go into the subway."

Hillary wanted to be there, but had a previous engagement
on Wall Street.
Jack chuckled. "They're scared. They don't know the subway, they're from Ohio. Just look at them," he said contemptuously. "We'd get fired if we worked in those clothes. You're supposed to wear work boots, hard hats, reflector vests..." 

Meanwhile, Bob seemed to be rounding up a posse via his cellphone. As the yuppies resumed the parade, Jack did as well, turning to me to say, "Good luck to you, sir." Aware of my non-employment situation, I know he meant it.

By now, it was roughly 30 minutes past snack time. I resumed following them, however, getting only as far as Park Avenue when the traffic light changed against me. As the four of them blended into the crowd near Madison Avenue, I took that as my cue to exit, stage east. I'd like to think they're still walking around the city, playing out their labor drama until the yuppies give up crying and go back to Toledo.

Fun facts: Verizon made over four billion in profits last yearand its CEO, Lowell McAdam, pulled down over 18-million. Brother, can you spare a health plan?


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