Saturday, May 2, 2009

Preakness and the Great Stamp Caper

I was considering continuing my discussion on successful consulting. Then I remembered today's the Kentucky Derby; my mind drifts towards horse racing. The Kentucky Derby's a big deal, the first leg of the Triple Crown, which includes the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. The Triple Crown is special, more than a series of gambling events. Each race has a special significance for me; each brings back a story...

When I first moved to Lancaster, PA. I had very few friends. Lancaster seemed like a different world; being a typical New Yorker, I thought all people from Lancaster were hicks. I thought that people from Lancaster's IQs were at least 15 points lower than New Yorkers'. People from Philadelphia were a little smarter; their IQs were only 5-10 points lower. I later came to believe that people from New Orleans had the lowest IQs of all.

After living away from New York years I now see: it's not a low IQ, but a different a view of reality. New Yorkers have a broader, less superstitious view. They're less naive and their cynicism, although obnoxious, enables them to see the world a little more clearly.

One of the friends I met in Lancaster thought he was more sophisticated than the average Lancaster native. He felt he was more like a New Yorker. I took him into the NYC. He immediately threw up. The energy made him dizzy, disoriented. We bonded, though, on two levels: drugs and gambling. He believed he could make money handicapping. He asked me If I wanted to go to the Preakness Stakes with him, at Pimlico Race Track in Maryland.

We took the bus.

On the way back, after a losing day, he explained to me why today was not a good reflection of his handicapping ability. He then told his plan for making money. He was a truck driver. He drove mostly short term routes in Pennsylvania. One of his assignments was to carry bales of stamps from the Post Office in Lancaster to Harrisburg. Each bale, a giant role consisting of $6000.00 worth of stamps. He told me that the day before, a Friday afternoon, he had intentionally dropped one of the bales on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on his way to Harrisburg. He had noted the mile marker where he dropped it; he later found it, loaded it in his car, and brought it back to his house.

"Do you know anyone in New York interested in buying stamps?" he asked.

Who robs stamps from the Post Office?

And then expects to sell it on the black market?

I tried to explain: it might be difficult to sell "hot" stamps; also, he was the most likely suspect, at least when it was determined that the stamps were missing.

He wasn't concerned. No one saw him do it; they wouldn't miss the stamps. This was Saturday afternoon, a day after he had stolen the stamps.

Monday afternoon he called me. The FBI had just left his house. They had questioned him about some missing stamps. He was the last one known to have had contact with them. He was freaked out. He wanted to know if I would help him. It was a rainy day; he had a great idea. He would drive his truck with the stolen stamps to the Lancaster Post Office late that night, dump the stamps in the back of the Post Office, run over them with the truck, then leave. In the morning someone would find the stamps. Then they would easily figure the stamps had fell off the truck. He'd be off the hook. He wanted me to go with him, to keep him company.

I'm usually a loyal friend. But this was asking a little too much. I told him I couldn't do it. I wished him luck. I didn't speak to him for a few months. The next time I saw him he had become a Jehovah Witness and was going door to door preaching imminent world destruction.

"What happened with the stamps?" I asked.

"God saved me."

I saw his wife about six months later. She was a very nice women and had also become a Jehovah Witness. They had just had a baby. She told me that he had disappeared and hadn't seen him for a while. I never saw him again. I think about this story occasionally, usually at the time of a Triple Crown event.

My story about the Belmont Stakes is outrageous...

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