Every morning first light I go out for coffee. Luckily for me, there’s a Starbucks that opens at 5. It’s a great way for a writer to start her day sending email…making notes.
I tend to daydream as I walk, not the smartest thing to do at this hour.
When it’s still dark cabs and delivery trucks don’t expect to see you, so being careful is a must. I say this of course in hindsight.
There I am tooling up Lex, the aroma of Dark Roast wafting in the distance, when I cross 83rd without looking both ways. Suddenly, I feel an arm grab me by the shoulder pulling me back onto the curb.
WHOA! WHAT THE FUCK?
I look up and there’s a middle-aged man with very few teeth driving two shopping carts like trotters full of cans and plastic bottles. One of them was hit by the fruit truck that almost hit me and was now upside down, its contents scattered all over the street.
“Omigod,” I said, “look at your cans, they’re smashed and all over the place.”
“Better them cans then yo brains lady.”
Let me brief you on New York cannery, for lack of a better term. These men go from one end of Manhattan to the other gathering bottles and soda cans in order to cash them in. It’s actually impressive when you see a group pushing their loot at dawn. They then have to wait for the market or drugstore to open to redeem it. You see them patiently waiting in line to either load them in a automatic machine or have someone come out to count them. This is after working all night long.
The kicker is, a man with three carts might get fifteen dollars, and that’s considered a good night.
“Thank you for, I guess, saving me,” I said, slightly shell-shocked from the experience. Nothing like seeing your life flash in front of you before you’ve even had coffee.
“You need ta watch where you goin. I see you evera mo-nin. You like a angel talkin to herself.” Uh-oh…I know I do that…I mumble under my breath.
“Can I buy you a cuppa coffee? It’s the least I can do.”
“Don’t drink caffa…bad for ya.”
“Tea?” He shook his head like I was nuts.
Here’s a guy who recycles for a living with better dietary habits than I do. I so wanted to give him money, but all I had was my Starbucks card.
‘Thank you for being so kind to me. Can I help you reload your cart?”
“Okay then…see ya.”
I watched him salvage a few cans and thought…