Coffee Mate Doesn’t Help Sweeten the Season

Random acts of kindness are certainly to be encouraged. But when they occur in a hard-scrabble town like New York, their recipient, before expressing gratitude, probably first ought to check his or her pockets, as one 31-year-old woman failed to do on Dec. 18.

The victim was trying to place what she described as “numerous” cups of coffee in a bag at the Starbucks at 1378 Madison Avenue at 11:20 a.m. when another customer, a 5-foot-11 man with a blotchy complexion and a tan coat, walked over and started to help her bag her order.

The woman told the police that after she paid she placed her wallet in one of the bags, but took her eyes off it momentarily. As she was walking eastbound on 96th Street a few minutes later she looked in the bags and realized her wallet was gone.

She immediately returned to Starbucks, but alas, too late! The good Samaritan who’d helped her and whom she now suspected of pick-pocketing her had already departed. Confirming her suspicions that he might not have been as nice a person as he first appeared, other customers informed her that he also tried to steal money from the tip jar.

Lest there be any doubt as to his defective character, they were erased when she returned home and received a call from her credit-card company informing her that her Visa had been used five times at a Pathmark supermarket on East 125th Street between 1:14 and 1:20 p.m. for a total of $651.71. Five hundred dollars worth of merchandise was also purchased from the online Disney store.

The victim’s Nine West wallet contained, in addition to various credit cards and a Massachusetts driver’s license, a credit slip from Tiffany worth $400, though there was no indication that the perp had yet attempted to use it toward the purchase of, say, an Elsa Peretti heart-shaped pendant at the Fifth Avenue flagship store.

Appetite for Assault

Restaurants are normally considered oases of civility, places where the stresses of the world recede, at least until the check arrives. But a couple of Upper East Side eateries fell somewhat short in recent weeks.

On Dec. 21, at 4:20 in the morning, a customer was punched in the mouth at the Ritz Diner, at 1133 First Avenue, by an unknown male who fled in an unknown direction. While the assailant may have remained unidentified, his victim had a pretty good idea why he was the object of his wrath.

He told the cops the perp was angry because he, the victim, was dining in the company of a woman that his adversary also found fetching. He explained that both men met her at a bar and that “both men wanted to be alone with her.”

The object of their mutual desire was described only as an “anonymous female,” suggesting that the winning suitor had yet to get to know her well enough to learn her name-and might never. He was whisked off to New York Hospital–Cornell Medical Center for treatment of his injury. A canvass of the area failed to find his assailant.

In another restaurant-related incident, but at least one where the players were better known to each other, a diner stated that he was taking a meal at an eatery in the 70’s on Dec. 18 when another diner approached his table and stated, “Hello. How are you doing? The food is good here.”

As the two were shaking hands, the visitor offered him some fresh pepper-not in the traditional way, but by smashing a pepper mill into his face, causing a laceration to his nose.

The victim informed the cops that he was familiar with his assailant-whom he was able to identify only as Anthony-as they had made each other’s acquaintance five years ago during a court case in New Jersey when “the complainant had testified against perp’s uncle.”

While no arrests were made, the 19th Precinct detective squad and an F.B.I. agent (who was apparently familiar with the history of the case) were notified.

Fleeting Romance

Love can happen fast, but it rarely happens with the alacrity it apparently struck one gentleman as he awaited the southbound No. 6 train at the Lexington Avenue and 86th Street station on Dec. 18.

Two men approached the victim, a 33-year-old Queens resident, at 1:55 a.m. and engaged him in conversation. The conversation was sufficiently intriguing that before you know it, and before the train arrived, it led to what the victim described as “mutual kissing” between him and one of the men.

Indeed, so swept away was the victim by the romance of the moment that he offered no resistance when his newly minted paramour removed the gold Gucci necklace he was wearing.

However, it apparently wasn’t his intention to let the fellow, who ran to the street and fled in an unknown direction, have the jewelry as a keepsake of their friendship. A police canvass of the subway station and the surrounding streets produced negative results.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at

Coffee Mate Doesn’t Help Sweeten the Season