There's a Citibank on 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. Just about every Sunday, on the way to church, I head there and fill the wallet for the rest of the week and get a little green to kick into the collection.
Usually, there's a pan handler standing the vestibule of the bank. He usually opens the door for folks on the way in and out. He seems like a nice enough guy. Tall, thin. Black guy in his mid to late 50s. He always has dry ash on his hands, but he seems clean and well-kept. His clothes, while worn, are never filthy. He smiles, says thanks, and opens the door whether you give him change or not.
He's always wearing the same hat, a black baseball cap with a white Gothic font capital "D" on it. I don't know his real name, but I think of him as Dee.
Last Sunday, Dee wasn't waiting in the vestibule. He was standing on the corner, leaning against a mailbox, watching folks let themselves in and out of the door. He wasn't asking nobody for money. He was just standing there.
May and I walked passed him. Had a little trouble with my card, but eventually somebody leaving opened the door and we went in after they left.
Inside there was a man shouting into the service phones next to one of the ATMs. He was about my height, heavy set. White guy in his late forties. He had buzz cut, sandy blond hair. He wore rectangular framed glasses and his face was red with anger and exertion. He wore a pale blue Polo shirt and khaki shorts.
He was yelling at the helpline worker.
"What I'm trying to tell you is that there's a man breaking the law in one of your banks! Don't you care? He's breaking the law!"
Panhandling inside a bank is a no-no in NYC.
"No. But he's just outside. Do you want me to call the cops? Because I will. No. He's not gone though. He's just waiting until I leave. Don't you get it? What? No, no, no. He's breaking the law! The law! Look, I'm going to call the cops. If you're not going to, I'm going to call the cops. What? Like 7th Avenue and Union, or something. What? No he's not here now . . ."
I got through the line, got my money, and was headed out the door when he slammed down the phone and began fishing the cell phone out of his pocket. A woman, short, round glasses, curly reddish hair said, "Let's go." Wife maybe?
"Wait, I have to call the police."
Outside, Dee was still leaning up against the mailbox.
I walked up to him.
"There's a guy in there," I said. "He's yellin' his head off and talking about calling the cops."
"Yeah. I bet."
"I think he's going to do it."
Dee looked at me and looked at the bank door.
"I'd clear out. Just for a little while," I said.
Dee sighed. "Sure. Thanks."
I walked off to church. He walked off to wherever Dee goes when he not at his unofficial post.
Later, after church, walking to brunch, May and I were talking about it. I said, "The guy's got a right to call the cops, but I got a right to talk to Dee."
"I don't know," said May. "I'm glad you did it. But Dee was committing a crime. A lame crime, but a crime. I don't think you do have the right to tip off somebody committing a crime that the cops are on the way."
"Reckon you're right. I'm aiding and abetting non-aggressive panhandling."
I was quiet for a second.
"That's fine with me," I said. "I'd be proud to have that on my record. I'd pay that fine happily. And to that dude in the bank, I'd say, 'Fuck you, man. Seriously, as a Christian, I say Fuck you.' If he was a car, I'd have keyed his shit."
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