Funny thing, I didn’t even notice how he did it.
Every morning, when I turn from Broadway to the Wall Street on my way to work, I get stuck in the bottleneck at the beginning of Wall Street, formed by a permanent fence along the Stock Exchange and the building at the opposite side of the street, leaving only about a third of the street’s width for the pedestrians.
One day, I stopped by the three ramming-vehicle-preventing metal boulders in front of the fence, waiting for a seemingly endless tourist groups to pass.
Soon, I noticed another person, at the Two Wall Street entrance opposite to the Stock Exchange, waiting for the crowd to recede, too. He intended to enter the Stock Exchange through the Wall Street Eleven entrance, but the new influx of excited sightseers started taking pictures in the middle of the bottleneck, blocking the short path across the street.
The man looked down, trying not to draw attention. That drew my attention.
He was short, balding, with a beard, holding thick leather bag on his shoulder. His slouch was a little crooked on the right side.
After he gave me a polite yet sad look back, I realized that the man and the location matched perfectly, because I shy-stared at Jim Cramer, the host of TV show ‘Mad Money’.
On TV people usually look taller and burlier than in real life, and Jim indeed seemed smaller than one would expect him to be. Yet when he glimpsed at the crowd patiently and inquisitively, he looked much more intelligent than his yelling crazy TV twin.
He waited and waited, looking mostly down, while one tourist group, led by a guide holding a blue umbrella with Morgan Stanley logo above his head, was instantly replaced with another, directed by a guide with a plush duck tied to a selfie stick.
Clearances appeared sporadically, but Jim stayed put, squinting at the crowd and probably evaluating a risk of bumping into somebody, and then deciding to wait out.
The guide pointed his duck-flag onto a plate on the building wall saying ‘Wall Street Two’, and half of his group dashed towards it to pose for yet another set of pictures.
I looked at the Two Wall Street entrance, and there was no Jim Cramer there.
How did this happen? Did he step back inside the lobby?
I looked around. Jim was already entering Stock Exchange at Wall Street Eleven entrance, smiling to the security guard who probably took his job so seriously that he didn’t let a recognizable face to fool him – and checked Jim’s ID badge.
I tailed the selfie-stick-duck led tourist group along to the square in front of the Federal Hall, still puzzled by how Jim Cramer crossed the Wall Street without me noticing him, despite my allegedly quick eye.
When excited tourist group dissolved to pose in front of the Stock Exchange and climb to the George Washington monument pedestal, I remembered what Jim Cramer did for a living. He taught people to beat the market, and big part of this skill was an art of timing.
So, he inevitably had to develop some mysterious sense of the right time to jump in and jump out of the market, to become some kind of a time-ninja, and he must have used this extra sense to cross the crowded street at the only delicate and almost undetectable moment when he wouldn’t bump into anybody.
For a minute, this gods-like art of the right timing seemed spellbinding like music to me.
Then I heard music.
It came from an old Chinese man playing erhu at “The Corner”, the entrance to the former JP Morgan building.
His ancient instrument had only two strings, and his music was monotonous as if there was no beginning or end to it.
I remembered that the erhu player was always there, as if he never moved.
There were no emotions and no sense of time in his half-closed eyes.
I snorted in disbelief, hesitated for a moment, and threw a dollar into his case.