People watching for profit
Besides unattended purses, the easiest targets were hanging over the backs of chairs, even when the women were sitting in them. He would use a menu or, sometimes, his female partner to block the view of his hand darting in. Purses hanging from hooks under bar rails were also easy. When he saw a purse on the floor, he said he would use his foot or an umbrella to hook it and drag it closer.
“Those are the most common ways,” Mr. Christopher said. “People are talking, they’re in their own worlds.”
Michael Wilson’s piece on a smooth pick pocket reminded me of the many nights I spent in NY bars, drinking pints of cider and handrolling cigarettes with my friend Dion. In close conversations Dion would tell me things like his plans to go to France and join a theater group (soon after, he did. And he’s still doing it).
I forgot what I would tell him but I’m sure it was about whatever project I hoped to make at the moment. We were absorbed in each other’s plans and absorbed in our own.
But to be alone at a bar makes for less self absorption. There is always another personality or two that draws attention - sometimes they don’t have to say a thing.
There is an art to observing people. Mostly you watch them through your hazy peripheral. Or you catch them at right moments of their own self absorption. Track the hand gestures, the body language, the posture long enough and you’ll get a good idea of what’s going on with them. Or a good idea of what you think is going on.
So I wonder if Cory Christopher’s narrow focus made him a master at reading what people were talking about - at finding the right moment to step closer to their wallet as their conversation grew more intimate and their sphere of perception shrunk.
Certainly the benchmark would be when everyone is in the tunnel of conversation, and little else can knock them out of it. So Cory’s best work was done when he observed emotion was beginning to drive the talk, thus locking everyone’s eyeballs to each other.
Was it better to hook a person’s wallet when they were in a close conversation about a breakup? Or job loss? Rather than a movie they liked or album they got? Are first dates better than a married couple’s date night? Are second dates even better than first dates?