Marvin Blain used to get weekends off.
“That was back when times were good,” he explained. “The money flowed and some of it trickled down to me. Now there isn’t much left.”
Blain shines shoes so it has always come in singles anyway.
“I’ve got a regular spot downtown,” he said. “I get a lot of Wall Street types on the way to big meetings. They’re probably the same people who spent all the money and left the rest of us with the bills.”
Blain laughed and then continued:
“They used to be big tippers, but most of them have turned into tightwads. I had a guy try to give me a fifty dollar bill after a shine a few weeks ago. I told him I couldn’t change that and he said, ‘I’ll pay you tomorrow.’ I’m still waiting for it.”
So Blain rides the 2 train from the Bronx into Manhattan on Saturdays and sometimes even on Sundays looking for a little extra cash.
“I work the tourists checking out the Stock Exchange,” Blain said. “I shine for a buck, pop my rag and really give ‘em a show. I’m as smooth as Derek Jeter.”
Blain smiled and tugged on the bill of his Yankees cap.
“That’s a guy whose shoes I’d shine for free,” Blain said. “I’d have Derek’s spikes looking better than new. I’d come to the Stadium and clean ‘em up every day. Then they might let me stay and watch the game without a ticket. That would help until the big tippers come back.”