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Karmic 45

I spotted the Crazy Lady from my building yesterday while doing some grocery shopping at the market next door. Any building numbering over fifty apartments in New York City is issued one crazy lady by code. It’s right there on the ledger .. go ahead and look. The problem with this requirement is that crazy ladies come in all forms. There’s hippie-crazy, as in the ex-stripper who used to dance on upstate table tops in the early 70s before settling in to 9B and favoring Mrs. Roper dresses. There’s overly-friendly crazy like the woman in the basement unit who grabs both your hands to tell you what a wonderful person you are for recycling properly. And then there’s just plain mean crazy which, unfortunately, is the only way to describe my Crazy Lady.

My lady is probably in her late 60s, walks with angry determination despite hunched posture, and has a look that makes the evil witch from the Wizard of Oz seem a sympathetic character. She goes out of her way to be mean, actively seeking confrontation with fellow tenants and strangers alike. I avoid her at all cost, but on occasion when interaction is imminent am on my best behavior. I once looked up while turning the key entering the lobby and got a cold jolt meeting her face to face. I held the door and smiled politely only to be chastised for doing it improperly. “Would you like me to show you how to hold a door for someone?!” she snapped, and I deferred, allowing her to demonstrate. I’m not one to be at a complete loss for the occasional wise-ass quip, but sometimes you just have to give crazy its due. I walked out of the building once to see a guy on the street screaming at this woman, warning that if she ever came within fifty feet of him again he would ‘take her out.’ She was undeterred. Another time I saw a young woman looking at her, shocked almost to tears and telling her “you are truly an awful human being.” I later found out that she actually takes swings at people on the street .. tries to hit them. None the less, I defer to the crazy element in her meanness. There was that time I had a very brief and near-civil elevator chat with her about Noam Chomsky.

Back to the market. I’d picked up some bathroom cleaning products, tortillas, a quart of milk and pistachio nuts, and was about to make my exit when I saw her coming down aisle eight. So I backtracked by the dairy cooler and headed out the long way on the opposite side of the store. Fate wasn’t with me this day, and as I checked out I could hear her loudly berating the young girl scanning her items at the register just behind me. I held up for a moment with my groceries to let her leave before me, and then waited to give her time to go in and get up to her apartment while I chatted with the Mets fan who works at the liquor store on the other side next door. I explained why I was cooling my heels and he perked up immediately. “The crazy woman from that building?” he asked enthusiastically. “She tried to punch me once when I was coming in to work!” We had a chuckle over that, discussed the Mets and Giants at the All Star break, and I looked in my lobby again. She was still there .. mulling around like a mean hawk ready to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse. So I walked down to the corner, squatted by my bag of groceries, and ate my pistachio nuts.

Ten minutes worth of nuts later I returned and was relieved to see that she was gone. Then, as I entered the building, I found forty-five dollars on the ground – two twenties and a five. There was no one around, so I picked up the money and stuffed it in my pocket. I got a mild boost at first, figuring I’d covered the cost of my groceries or perhaps that of having my comforter dry-cleaned earlier that morning. But after thinking about it momentarily I figured whatever boost I was enjoying would be eclipsed by the shitty feeling I’d have if I’d lost the money. But what to do? My best guess was that Crazy Lady had dropped it – and the last thing I wanted was any interaction with her. And there was no guarantee that it was her money. I sent a group email to my buddies Paul, Scott and Tom, figuring that they offered a decent representation of the conscientious spectrum. Scott suggested an ambiguous note in the lobby asking if anyone had lost anything and Tom concurred. Paul got back to me too late to join the discussion. So that was it; I got out a piece of yellow legal paper and scribbled: Lose something July 11 at app. 3pm? Call to identify and reclaim. I put my number at the bottom.

The next day I received a call from a pleasant-sounding woman named Latania, guessing correctly that I had found money and identifying the amount and denomination of the bills. She had dropped the money while taking something out of her pocket and was delighted to hear I’d found it when I called her back. She thanked me when I returned it and told me “you’ve got some serious good karma coming your way.” I’m not sure how far forty-five bucks worth of karma will go, and I’ve probably blown it already by going public with it in this post. If I manage to steer clear of Crazy Lady for a while, I’ll consider it money well returned.

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