A YOUNG couple took a trip to New York. They were rather naive and their friends took pleasure in winding them up about the armies of criminals and muggers that stalk the city, preying on tourists.

However, they negotiated the taxi ride from JFK, checked into their hotel and, to their surprise, found everybody to be pleasant and friendly. The hotel was opulent, the restaurants vibrant and the buildings were as impressively tall as they had imagined. At the back of their minds they couldn't rid themselves of the fear of being attacked but they were determined this shouldn't deter them from enjoying their break and they threw themselves into the city with gusto. Within a few days they felt virtually like native Manhattanites.

The day before their return, they were leaving the hotel when the woman realised she had left her purse in the room. She turned back to pick it up but when she re-entered the lift, she was dismayed to find three intimidating black men standing inside. Choosing to conquer her fear, she stayed in the lift and the door closed.

"Hit the floor, lady," said a deep voice. She dropped to her knees on the floor, and upended the contents of her handbag on the lift floor, screaming, "Take everything, just leave me alone" There was a pregnant silence before one of the men started picking up the valuables and apologising for the misunderstanding.

The next morning as they went to check out they discovered their bill had already been settled. The receptionist produced a note. The woman opened it and read: "Thanks for the theatricals yesterday. I haven't laughed so much in years. Regards, Lionel Ritchie."

Maxton Walker

(with thanks to John Baron, Lancashire)

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