Posted by David
on Jun 25, 2002 in Upside-down Hippo
| 0 comments
IN THE CLUTCHES OF HUMBERTO, PART TWO
Setting: Jackson Heights, Queens. June 2001.
In yesterday’s episode: David and Tiffany move to Queens, only to be shaken down by an iniquitous building superintendent.
The only thing we could do was put him off. If Humberto would accept a deferral until Christmas, we would not only have extra time to raise some money, we could also combine the bribe payment with the requisite holiday tip, which is always a lovely way to celebrate the birth of Christ. Such an amalgamation of funds would also allow us to stiff him and leave him guessing as to which area he had been shortchanged. Happy Holidays!
The question was, what would motivate Humberto to accept these terms? What could make him forego the expected hundreds of dollars for half a year, as well as keep him happy enough to provide the maintenance service we might require in the meantime?
It was time for David and Tiffany to strike back.
Step one: Insurance. We needed evidence against the crooked super, something that would, in a dispute, turn the tide in our favor. We decided to tape him asking for the bribe again, and since neither of us owned a miniature tape recorder, we hid my digital video camera in a toiletries bag and set the sting in motion.
It was a spectacularly executed sortie.
Tiffany held the hidden camera in what we hoped was a casual position as I pressed Humberto for what we wanted. First, I brought up the money, which he did not seem as eager to discuss with me directly. Would it be all right to give him his customary “little something” at Christmas?
He hesitated for a beat, his smile turning down a fraction at the corners.
“Oh, I hope we can work something out,” I said. “Maybe I can make an arrangement with the office.” Meaning the real estate company that owned the building.
“No office, no office!”
He agreed to our terms.
Step two: Raising the Dough. Now that we had six months to prepare, our thoughts turned toward how to get the money. Clearly, hundreds of dollars were out of the question. (If one has to spend hundreds of dollars, an assassin is a much better deal than the superintendent.) A broker I knew said she always paid a super $100 when her clients moved in. Tiffany and I felt this was still excessive, but it was much more reasonable than what he had demanded.
I made an excursion to the dollar store up the street and found a bright yellow piggy bank. It had a wide grin like Humberto’s and soulful black eyes. “Give me your fortune,” those eyes said. We did. That pig feasted on our spare pennies and nickels and dimes (quarters were for the laundry).
The Humberto Fund was born!
The idea was, of course, to convince him of our poverty, both to shame him and to keep him from sniffing around for more. As the translucent pig engorged on copper and silver, we relished the thought of handing it over, of seeing the look on his face.
We never gave it to him.
I regret it now, but it was expedient. As Christmas rolled around, so did a dispute with our upstairs neighbor, who happened to be Humberto’s son; we needed the super on our side. And by then, the fun had gone out of The Humberto Fund. For six months, we had been surrounded on all sides by Humberto’s friends and family, a very noisy and unfriendly bunch that sapped our energy and commitment. We were exhausted, we were going away for the holiday, and we just wanted it over with.
The day we left, I encountered Humberto in the elevator and pressed a thick envelope into his hands. “Merry Christmas,” I grunted, and he smiled his wide smile. Two hundred dollars down the drain, and for nothing.
The Humberto Fund sits on my new mantle now, facing the wall. Through its round yellow ass, I see hundreds of coins. Tomorrow or the next day, we will break it open and use them to buy two organic steaks, and as we celebrate our last week together with Tiffany’s famous beef burgundy, I will pretend I am devouring Humberto’s heart, the way he devoured ours.