The Purse Story

First, you should know that I am not an idiot. Second, you should know I was not arrested. Let’s begin.

I had the opportunity to visit New York City for the first time a few years ago with my ex-husband (not ex- at the time, of course), his design partner, and the partner’s 11-week pregnant (and woozy) wife. The guys were presenting at a trade show for their prosthetics and orthotics company, and we wives were along for the trip to look pretty and carry brochures.

While I was carrying my ratty, fake Kate Spade handbag along the streets of the Fashion Capital, we presented at the trade show, attended several shows including Stomp!, and ate at fine dining restaurants as well as greasy spoons. I was taken with the kindness of New Yorkers and the normalcy of the streets.

Seven hours before our plane was to depart and take us home, we walked the streets of Times Square, saying goodbye to the lights and the storefronts. And then I saw a purse salesman.

Actually, there were four purse salesmen with four Santa sacks which held the bootleg bags. A lookout stood 15 feet away from the corner where a tall sales associate stood wearing a Columbia University sweatshirt.

Thrilled, I told my husband I would be buying myself a practical and elegant souvenir of NYC. As I began haggling and negotiating with my purse man, I found myself very proud that I was about to purchase a “Prada” with a small bag inside for only $45. This cost may have been steep for the actual product, but Columbia University and I had started at $95, hence my pride in the negotiations.

Then, my husband sharply told me to drop the purse. Annoyed at his impertinence, I ignored his ridiculous command. I was haggling, couldn’t he see.

“Colleen, I’m serious. Drop the purse.”

Boy, this guy must not want me to have pretty things. Forget it, hubby; I’m almost done here.


Now, in a decade together, he had never cussed at me. Something was obviously wrong. I dropped the purse.

I looked up at Columbia and saw his eyes wild with terror, then a blur of his fleeing our transaction. Four police officers streaked past me, two on either side of me, each holding batons. They tackled and wrestled with Columbia like a live version of a cloud of fighting cartoon animals.

Another sales associate left his Santa sack and flopped into the fray. He was handcuffed immediately.

New Yorkers strolled past, enthused by the drama and pleased with the serendipity of unattended contraband. I watched as two men quietly picked up an armful of purses and dipped around the corner, away from accountability.

I looked down to see blank concrete where the pile of purses used to be. The lookout must have snagged that sack.

I tilted my face back to center, witnessing the running and the confusion, the tussling and the stealing, all the ugliness of evil street vending and motivations of law enforcement that circled around me.

Dejected that I got a guy arrested and failed to buy a Prada, I slinked toward the hotel.

A block or so later, I saw a sweaty, tall man wearing a Columbia University sweatshirt emerge from behind a garbage bin and walk in the other direction. My guy had gotten away! I was a little bit happy for him, actually.

Another block down, I saw a different purse sales associate who had been sitting on the wall waiting his turn on the corner. I called out to him, “Hey! I still don’t have a new purse. Whatcha got?”

“Walk on, white girl.”

Ok, he thought I was trouble. Fair enough.

We turned a corner to get closer to the hotel, and I saw the only other sales associate who was not arrested, in hiding, or ignoring me. Well, he can only say no… here goes.

“Hey, that drama was terrible, whaddn’t it? I was gunna buy a purse from your buddy. I’ll buy one from you instead.”

He told me to hurry. The Santa sack group knew I was one, selfish, purse buyer. But my money was still green, I guess.

I found a Prada with a small bag inside AND a Kate Spade worth buying. I gave the guy a 20 and a 10 for the Prada. I told him that was what I thought the Prada was worth, and he agreed to shut me up. Apparently, he was in a real hurry.

For the Kate Spade, I told him all the money I had left was $28. I even showed him the contents of my Alice in Wonderland wallet. Yep, $28. He did not know about the $200 in each jeans pocket, a ruse to soften the effect of pickpocketing, if it were to occur. But the purse was not worth even $15, so I figured we were even.

I left the transaction with a new Kate Spade, a new Prada with a small bag inside, and my original, ratty, fake bag, pleased as punch that I would make my plane on time and my arrest record without blemish.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s