25 Flatbush Avenue: the best of the downtown Brooklyn area's Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits joints.
One of the immutable facts of life is that urban Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits joints tend to attract the dregs of local humanity, an assortment of lowlifes that includes families with no manners or control over their obnoxious children, sketchy bootleg DVD and jewelry entrepreneurs, beggars, loud and grotesquely obese "ghetto fabulous"chicks in appallingly inappropriate outfits, and the obviously schizophrenic or otherwise insane. So, if you find a Popeye's that somehow has managed to remain open and serve a quality meal while not being plagued with the aforementioned societal nightmares. cherish it. But, with that said, the Popeye's in my area that I favor — with its perpetual cleanliness and unfailingly nice and friendly staff who never fuck up my orders and sometimes give me extra goodies because they like me — was long overdue for some sort of textbook display of ghetto drama, and this evening it landed with a big, wet "SMACK."
Today I arrived at the Popeye's on Flatbush Avenue, a mere stone's throw from the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and before I made my order I took the seat nearest to the door and stopped to adjust the contents of my backpack. I was seated facing the entrance, so I could clearly see the door and anyone coming or going through it, when suddenly a dude with dreadlocks loudly fell against the lobby window and ended up on the floor. I immediately leaped to my feet and went to lend assistance, asking if he was okay. I helped him to stand and a white guy from the Nathan's hot dog joint next door popped out to also help out and asked if the guy was alright. He looked at us strangely and politely waved us away, assuring us he was okay. It was obvious from the on-scene evidence that he had apparently slipped on a soda previously dropped by another patron and that had not yet been mopped up by the staff, but he seemed okay so myself and the other fast food patron left him be.
I returned to fixing the contents of my backpack and watched as the slip-victim looked around suspiciously and slowly allowed himself to slide down the window to end up seated on the lobby floor. He remained there for some time and a number of patrons entered and exited, stepping over him with the non-chalance common to longtime New Yorkers. I kept my eye on him as I made my way to the ordering line and found myself behind a fifty-something Latina busybody who was busy berating the Popeye's staff because they apparently were not paying attention to what had happened and were not calling an ambulance. Her annoying voice was loud enough to be heard all the way down at the Coney Island pier and she was not about to let the staff neglect a man whom she felt was so clearly in need of medical attention. The staff looked at her wearily and tried to explain to her that they had seen the whole thing and it was clear to all of them that the guy was faking the whole thing, likely in hope of a lawsuit-derived payday, and that they saw that sort of thing every week, but she seemed incapable of accepting what they were telling her. So I cut her off and told her that I was sitting right there and witnessed the whole thing, and it seemed pretty obvious to me that the guy was a bullshit artist. She kept trying to cut me off, as though I did not understand why she kept insisting on an ambulance, but I gave as good as I got and I must have re-explained what I saw six or seven times before it began to dawn on her that the guy was a scammer. Once they were able to get a word in edgewise, the staffers all repeated what they had tried to tell her earlier, and she finally sheepishly accepted what we were saying. She tried to save face by stating that she'd been in a bad fall once and had required ambulance and she just wanted make sure he got the help he needed, to which I and the staffers and another witness all told her we got where she was coming from but that she could put a sock in it, pick up her order, and get the fuck out, thangyaverramuch.
Once she departed, I made my order and chatted with the staff about what had just happened. When my meal arrived, I turned to look for a seat and saw that the dreadlocked guy was still sitting on the floor, looking increasingly annoyed as people stepped over him while entering and exiting. I took a seat with a vantage point that allowed me to continue watching this idiocy and found myself seated next to a hugely fat, crispy-black African guy in a dashiki and Gilligan-style hat. We exchanged knowing looks as we both nodded toward the guy on the floor, as if to both say "Can you believe this shit?" I was going to eat my meal while continuing to make my way through the book I'm currently reading, but the African guy decided he wanted to discuss what was going on. The problem with that was that the guy spoke in such a thick accent, I could only comprehend maybe every fourth or fifth word that he uttered, which put me into full-on feigned "Uh-huh, yeah" mode. That went on for a few minutes but was thankfully interrupted when two young men who were seated to my immediate right began talking to one of the staff who had come over and was obviously a friend of theirs. They discussed what had just gone down in considerable detail and the staff member noted that the scammer had to be a real rocket scientist to try and get away with that bullshit at that particular Popeye's, because the place was festooned with enough surveillance cameras to make hundred-eyed Argus Panoptes green with envy.
Mythological side note for clarification: Argus Panoptes, the hundred-eyed servant of Hera and guardian of her stuff. (Never let it be said that this stupid blog is not as educational as it is entertaining!)
And not only that, but the place even has a sizable flatscreen TV aimed so that the patron's can watch what's on the surveillance cameras, so any would-be thieves and scammers could not help but see that their actions were being recorded.
The young men laughed and shook their heads at the rampant stupidity, and the staffer called me over, saying "Man, you gotta see the video!" He then whipped out his cell phone and ran the footage, which revealed even more of the story than I had actually witnessed. The footage I saw was shot by his camera from a replay in the Popeye's office, and I could see everything as clear as day:
- From the vantage point of the specific ceiling-mounted camera, everything that a staffer could see from behind the counter was visible, including me at the seat near the door.
- Just before I came in, a black woman had ordered a medium drink and took it with her on her way out. Upon crossing into the lobby, she got on her cell phone and dropped her drink to the lobby floor before walking outside.
- Once she was out of view, there was a pause of perhaps fifteen seconds before Dreadlocks appeared on the street before the door. He was on his cell phone and looked down onto the lobby floor before putting his phone away and entering.
- He was then seen steeling himself before taking the intentional fall against the window and onto the floor, at which point myself and the white guy are seen attempting to help, but he waves us away.
So the entire thing was an obvious setup from the start, and the staffer also very astutely noted that "Nigga, ain't no black girl gonna come in here an' order a soda, drop it, an' not come up to the counter to ask for another one, or at least tell us we needed to send out somebody with a mop to clean the shit up! Bitch ain't gonna pay no $2.97 for a fuckin' drink, drop it, an' just leave! Sheeeeeeeit!!!" At that, we all laughed our asses off.
Meanwhile, Dreadlocks was still on the floor, acting as a traffic hindrance, so my African pal once more launched into semi-incomprehensible commentary and his own attempts at outlining the inevitability of Dreadlocks winning money from the situation, no matter if it was as little as just a grand or two. I tried to explain that I didn't think he had much of a case, especially considering that the entire incident was caught on video — no Zapruder footage, this — but he kept on and on about how Dreadlocks would win because the restaurant had not sent someone to clean up the spill before he stepped on it. I then pointed out how even if there had been someone fairly close by with a mop, it would have been impossible for them to have gotten to it before Dreadlocks, and the video bore that out in no uncertain terms. Africa just would not have it, and as he continued to expound on the lack of cleanup, an ambulance pulled up outside and was greeted by the aforementioned annoying and dense Latina, who must have called 911 after she left with her order. The haggard-looking EMT's listened to her ramble for a while before coming into a lobby to check out the status of the "injured," and they soon helped him to his feet and led him to the waiting meat wagon. As he was being led out, the assembled onlookers offered ongoing commentary, including one guy saying "See how he's putting all his weight on that leg and ankle? If he'd broken anything, no fucking way would he be walking at all! Bullshit!!!"
As things finally settled down and I was able to read and finish my meal in peace, a grizzled 60-something dude came in and I instantly pegged him as a beggar. "Say, my brutha," he said, "I'm broke an' I'm tryna git me some Popeye's money..." I politely cut him off and told him I did not have any money for him, and once he understood he was not going to get even one red cent out of me and assessed the equally-uncharitable looks on the faces of the other patrons, he then joined the discussion of the Dreadlocks incident, complaining about how "These fuckin' boys these days...Don;t wanna do no work! Always lookin' for the easy money!" Stunned, I wanted to yell at him, "Motherfucker, did you not just try to shake me down for money???" but clearly the irony would have been lost on him.
For a coda to all of this, a staffer came out to mop up and set up a couple of those warning quasi-cones that are used to mark slippery-when-wet areas, and that was that.
As seen while I was exiting.
The next time I eat at this Popeye's, I'm going to ask the staffers if there were any further developments, and I will of course chronicle any further info here.