Back in the late ’80s, I sold bird seed and supplies out of a storefront on Congress Street a couple of blocks up from Palisade Avenue in the Jersey City Heights. During the day, I did the paperwork and prepared orders to be shipped by UPS. This was in the back, maybe a hundred feet or so from the front door, which was locked. A bell there for people to ring to gain access.
One AM I was packing orders when the door bell rang. I jogged up front and through the glass I could see maybe three local individuals who were well known for always having an eye open for opportunity. I didn’t think that they’d taken up bird keeping.
“Hey Mikey, what’s up?”
“We’ve got six microwaves for sale.”
“Gee, sorry, but I’ve already got a microwave oven. And so does everyone else that I know.”
“We’ll give ya a good deal if ya take all six and then you can sell them.”
“Nah, this ain’t like the bar. People that come here are just lookin’ for bird stuff. And anyhows, I’ve got no way here of keepin’ them out of sight.”
And so I lock the door and hustle on to the back to try to get everything rolling for the UPS pickup. Just as I finish the sprint, the bell rings again. I reverse direction, wondering what it could be this time.
As I approach the door, I see a very obvious undercover police officer with a badge by his belt. As I turn the lock, more plainclothes police come into view — and the three entrepreneurs spread-eagled on the sidewalk.
“Do you know these guys?”
“Why, yeah. Mikey here lives next door and the others are from the area, too.”
“What were they talkin’ to you about? Don’t lie. I just saw ’em ring the bell.”
“Why, they asked me for a match and I told them that I didn’t smoke.”
“I don’t know if you’re tellin’ me the truth, but watch yourself. These guys would steal the hole out’v a donut.”
I lock the door, run to the back and finally begin to get the orders ready — for all of five minutes. The bell rings again. This time I cautiously head up front. And there are my three neighbors, not too worse for the wear and tear.
“What is it?”
“We’ll give ya a REAL good deal if you take all six right now.”
“GET OUTTA HERE! You’re hot! Go hide! But whatever you do, GET OUTTA HERE!”