Honoré Daumier, Danger de porter des jupons-ballons à l’époque des coups de vent (The Danger of Wearing Hoop Skirts), 1857.
While walking near Lincoln Center, I was waylaid by a frantic-looking young man. I was discombobulated—I’d been deep in a meretricious podcast—and it took me a moment to get the buds out of my ears. He had to repeat what he’d been saying.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” he was saying. “This is like a bad movie. I can’t believe this. But I just—I’m sorry, I’m just really upset—I just had an Uber driver kick me out and drive off with, like, an entire collection. I’m sorry, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I was at ABT—the ballet. I’m a costumer. Oh my God, I’m sorry, I’m crying.”
“Do you want to call 9-1-1?” I was already unlocking my screen.
“The police say they can’t track down the driver because legally he wasn’t allowed to make a street pickup and—I can’t believe I’m doing this—I have to get down to Chelsea. Can you possibly help me out with cab fare?”
Okay, I know. But you have to understand how upset this guy was. Even in the moment, when I had that heart-sinking “oh, it’s a scam” moment, a part of me felt like, even if it was, he sort of deserved the money just for credibility and commitment. Besides, we were right near the ballet.
“Well,” I said cautiously, “I don’t have any cash on me”—this was true, in fact I’d earlier given the last of it to an old woman playing “In the Summertime” on a saw—“but I can swipe you into the subway.” (We were right near the subway.) “You can take the 1 right down.”
“But I have these enormous hoop skirts,” he said with unimpeachable logic. “I have these four big hoop skirts that I can’t get on the subway.”
The words acted on me like magic. In retrospect, this should have raised more questions than it answered. How had the hoop skirts escaped the clutches of the Uber driver if they were so very unwieldy? What manner of hoop skirt was it that it could not fold? Some kind of farthingale? Was it made of osiers? Nylon? Whalebone? Did it have panniers? Under other circumstances, I would have engaged him on the subject. As it was, I was totally convinced.
“Here’s what I’ll do,” I said decisively. “I’ll call you an Uber from my account. Text me your address, and I’ll order it now.” (It didn’t occur to me until later that there weren’t any visible hoop skirts on the scene.)
“That’s really nice,” he said, “but the thing is, I still need to file a police report.”
“I can wait!” I said. “I’ll just text my friend that I’ll be late! I really want to see these hoop skirts and help you out!”
“I really think it would be best if you just went to an ATM,” he said, sounding slightly desperate.
“Oh, but if I order it, we can get a big van that can accommodate the hoop skirts!” I said. “I’ll help you load them! I really think this is the best solution.”
“You know what, that’s okay,” he finally said. “But thank you. I’ll figure something out.”
“But we’ve figured it out!” I said. “The hoop skirts! I’ll give you my number. After you’re done with the report, text me your pickup and drop-off addresses, and I’ll order you the van. Okay?”
“Thanks, but I don’t have a phone, it’s in the Uber,” he said.
“Good thing you got the hoop skirts!” I said. “No problem—here, I’ll write mine down!”
“Well, thanks,” he repeated. “I’ll text you either way, just for being so nice.”
“Oh, that doesn’t deserve a text,” I said. “I’m not being nice.”
Later, I explained to my friend that I had to keep my phone on the table, in case the guy texted me.
“I can’t believe you,” my friend said. “You really think he’s going to be in touch?”
“Of course not,” I said. “But it’s nice to pretend.”
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.
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