Missions 3-7: Random acts of opportunism
When I began this project, every ask felt like monumental bravery. I’d have to psych myself up for each interaction -- first rehearsing what I’d say to the fruit cart guy, for example, and how I’d persist if he rejected me. But I’m amazed at how quickly I toughened up; by the third day of this, I felt brazen, even shameless. What’s the worst that could happen -- someone says no? Fine, let them. Let them reject the pregnant lady, those heartless bastards and their bias toward empty wombs.
It was time to start asking for everything.
At Target, as a cashier rings up some new nursing bras: “Do you have a pregnant lady discount?” I like the way that sounds. It just pops out. As if the pregnant lady discount is a thing that already exists.
Cashier: “No, we don’t.”
In Chinatown, to a fruit vendor as he bags 2lbs of cherries for me: “Do you have a pregnant lady discount?”
Vendor: “Next customer.”
On Saturday morning, I call up ABC Kitchen -- the kind of place you need to make a brunch reservation for two weeks in advance -- and give a sob story. “I’ll be going into labor any day now,” I tell the hostess, “and after the baby arrives, I’ll barely be able to leave the house. Is there anything -- anything at all -- that you can do to get me in today?”
Frankly, I expect her to hang up on me then and there. Instead she says she’ll check, and I’m left waiting long enough to imagine that the French toast with vanilla-poached cherries is truly within my grasp. By the time she returns, I’ve definitely waited long enough for her manager to give a full-blown diatribe about smug, entitled New Yorkers, pregnant or otherwise. The hostess offers me a table at 3pm. This does not appease the pregnant lady; anybody can get into ABC at 3pm. I was angling for special treatment! I decline.
In Little Italy, I approach a guy on the sidewalk who’s rolling fresh cigars. “Can I get a free one for my husband to smoke after our son is born?” I ask. He’s meaty and stern looking, but at this question, he brightens up. “Look around,” he says, “and we’ll see what we can do.”
So I do look. I don’t know what I’m looking at. They’re all... cigars. I pick one up, and a woman comes over to tell me it’s $11.
“He said I can get a discount,” I tell her, motioning to her meaty colleague.
“No discount,” she says.
I touch my belly. It doesn’t alter anything. I turn to the original guy, who shrugs. “She’s the boss,” he says.
And then I buy the stupid thing for $11 anyway, because it turns out I still have some shame left in me.
A few hours later, back in Brooklyn, I spot a streetside psychic and stroll on in. It’s been a string of rejections. I need a win here. And it’s not like this woman is selling anything of tangible value anyway -- just folksy bullshit. “Can I get a half-off reading for my baby? He’s not a full person yet,” I say.
The psychic waves her hand dismissively. “No, no, I don’t read pregnant women.”
“But what about the baby?” I say.
“I don’t read babies either,” she says.
It’s a clever ruse. If this were a woman who could actually see the future -- and let’s be clear: she is not -- it would be cruel to tell a pregnant woman’s fortune. The joy of babies is in their potential; they are living clean slates, their eyes full of wonder, their lives to be shaped by the best of intentions. We want to imagine their futures, not know them. And so the psychic gets a convenient out; she uses her power wisely.
I touch my belly reflexively. “But I can tell you have a happy baby,” she offers.
Free reading! I’ll take it.
Value: Hard to say at the moment