My office is located on the cusp of the West Village and Soho in Manhattan, and is but a quarterback's throw to Tribeca. Due to that, I get to see a whole array of interesting characters while on my smoke breaks. Members of the "smokers club" downstairs often banter about these people, and I've gone as far to give them pet names. Here is just a selection of the fun people I get to see on a near daily basis.
Characters Currently Performing
The Squeaky Guy - Faily rotund and always wearing sweatpants, this man usually appears in the early afternoon, looking for a cigarette. His bumming strategy calls for standing 3 feet away from you, leaning in, and squeaking something to the effect of "cigarette" while holding two fingers to his lips. His squeak is barely noticable... often he has been asking you for a cigarette for a good minute before you actually notice. He doesn't seem to reckognize the fact that he asks the same people every day, who have now learned to Just Say No.
The Picky Guy - Probably late twenties to early thirties, this young man stands tall with a swimmer's build and decent clothes. He too comes around near-daily looking for a cigarette, but he's picky. Instead of asking "May I have a cigarette?" he instead asks "Do you have Newports?" If you say no, he'll ask for his back-up brand, Marlboro Lights. If neither, he'll walk away and ask the next person. I smoke Camel Lights/Silvers, so he generally wants nothing out of me. I even offered him a cigarette once - he refused.
The Undercover Cop Guy - Straggly beard and mutache, dirty pants, I have often thought of this guy a good lust object for bears. He stands every day in front of the magazine shop on the other end of the block. For months, he was just standing there - seems to have access to different jackets/coats to adjust to the seasonal changes, but appears homeless. 2 months ago he appeared with a rolling suitcase. Since then he added two smaller bags to his inventory. Seems homeless, but is very well-spoken. Asks a very polite "Hey Guy, do you have an extra cigarette?" when he isn't talking to himself. I suspect he is an undercover cop - just standing on that corner everyday is just a little suspicous.
The Hi Guy - You have to work hard at not giving eye-contact to this one. He walks determined back and forth to the deli on our block, turning round the corner to his destination. His eyes scan in a focused pattern, checking to see if anyone is looking his way. If you do make eye-contact, he will turn and say "Hi" and then just stand there, like an awkward moment in a Woody Allen movie. Sometimes he'll pass you, but then think there might have been a chance you looked back at him, and thus he'll turn around to make sure. If you're caught looking then, he'll redouble his efforts and come back to say Hi.
The Rooster Guy - You only see this character once every few months. I understand he wanders throughout the city - I've heard reports of him as far as midown and Park Ave's bank row. He walks with a quick and determined gait wearing a headband with a feather peaking out of it. Every few steps, he'll crow as loudly as he can - fairly accurately as well.
The Pipe Guy - This one actually has a name, and I even know it, but I refuse to reward him for bad behavior with such a thing as his own name. He works in my building, and comes out on smoke breaks with his pipe. His modus operandi is to float near you while you are having a conversation, slowly inching his way into personal space. Once he has suffiently broadcasted his presence, he will then break into the conversation invited or not. An old co-worker of mine found him sweet and pitied him, and thus engaged him in conversation. I mumbled under my breath everytime, as I just wanted to kick his ass for being rude. Now that my co-worker doesn't work here anymore, he leaves me alone.
The Flag Guy - Shortly after 9/11, this guy appeared on my street corner, handing out 8 1/2 x 11 sized american flags out of a FedEx envelope to cars stopped at the red light. Sometimes wearing a big "Apollo Creed" american floppy hat, sometimes full Irish green, he seemed to only slightly care about what he was doing, giving it his attention only every few minutes. He then dissapears for a while, only to reappear a few months later, giving out american flags again. Not sure if he charges money or not... or why he thinks anyone would want his paper flags.
Stars Formerly On-Stage - these are people who have not been seen in quite some time.
Meower 1 - An old man always wearing a cap and a sweater. He walks slowly over the subway gratings, constantly bent over as he searches for the glint of coins on the bottom. When he sees one, he takes out of his pocket a long string tied to a magnet, which he then snakes down into the grate to liberate the poor lost coin. Oh, and he meows like a cat while doing this. His meows are so good, people have been caught looking around for the stray cat on the block while the Meower did his thing.
Meower 2 - This guy actually worked within my building. Nothing too remarkable about him, except that he loved to meow loudly and constantly. Quite annoying. Especially in the front lobby where sounds echo.
The Corn Row Guy - Oh man, this guy took the prize. I could easily write a whole post about him alone. A youngish punk who would sashay down the block with that "I don't give a fuck" attitude that is generally reserved for the best drag queens, which this one was certainly not. Clearly out of his goard on something (I suspected meth,) he would walk proudly right up to your face and demand money. "Give me a dollar!" If you said no, he would go into the most amazing litany of curses and insults. "You fucking fat-assed black cheap ass bitch!" and so on. If you said yes and gave him a dollar, he would suck on his teeth and reply "Come on you cheap ass bitch, you got more. Give me five." And if you now hit your limit and said no, you would get even worse insults flung at you. Once he actually fell to the ground and pretended to be having an eptileptic seisure. A women ran to his rescue, and he just raised a hand up at her and screamed "Give me some money!" On another occassion, he did his schtick with an african-american woman. She said no, and he tore into her verbally while walking away. The women slowly pulled her umbrella out of her bag like a knight with a sword, standing there ready to kick his ass. I'm sure he is dead today, having insulted the wrong person. I'm almost sorry I didn't get to see it.
I know there are more who I am forgetting at the moment - but these are the classics, for sure.
Who are the interesting characters around your workplace?