Wednesday, July 24, 2002

88 cents, may not mean much to most of you, but to the men that walked the strike line outside of Grand Central in 1958, it has an amusing association.
My walking partner that year was a giant of a man, Sy Elliot. I asked that he be relieved from walking, as it wasn't good public relations to see a man of that girth representing the fact that we were underpaid in wages. As a matter of fact, that whole line was a cross section of wealth among technicians.
We had George Gray and Fred Dansereau, who had the top of the line sport cars parked out front. Then there was Henry Sietz, an elegant looking man, walking up and down Vanderbilt Avenue, wearing a strike sign, as he read the Wall Street Journal.
Back to the main theme... One mid-afternoon, as I was doing my strikers strut, an office-looking-type gentleman walked up to me, bearing a train time schedule in his hands.
"I am totally embarrassed," he professed. "I need 88 cents to get the train to get home. I work in the building across the street and all of my coworkers are gone. If you could lend me that amount, I will repay you in the morning and we could also go for breakfast ....?"
Well, who the hell has just 88 cents exactly in their pockets? So naturally, I gave him a buck. I felt as a good Samaritan might, and I kept it to myself. Next morning came and went and at lunch time, while feasting on the "strikers meal" of soup and roll and butter, in the Horn and Hardart cafeteria, across from Grand Central, on 42ND Street. I was sitting with a group of my coworkers and we were watching the line pass the cashier. We had just told the lady cashier that we saw a man, (Art Tinn), put two of the little square patties of butter in his pocket so that he wouldn't have to pay for them. As she tallied up Art's food, she said to him, "and that will be two cents apiece for the extra butter in your pocket," Well Art, who is the epitome of gentleness, turned scarlet and professed innocence. He emptied his pockets, but the lady wasn't satisfied.
When he joined us at the table and realized that we had pulled this prank on him, we then started on scams and stories of that ilk. That is when someone mentioned that he was hit again by the 88 cent man. A couple of days later we spotted him and accosted him on the ramp in the building. He said,"come on guys, it was only a buck." We laughed at ourselves and let him go. I felt like a fool for being so overly pious about my selfless act. The lesson being, give from your heart and expect no reward as you keep silent about it.
But for a dollar, I have another memory for my unexpurgated brain to muse over...

Tony Cucurullo