TRAVEL: YOUR HOLIDAY DISASTER

Loving `Guys and Dolls' is one thing, but when Bob Maddams was tricked by a living doll, the music stopped

ver since I first saw Guys and Dolls I have wanted to visit Times Square and follow in the footsteps of Nathan Detroit, Sky Masterson, Little Isidore and all the other characters who, through their wit and guile, scammed their way through life in the roaring Twenties.

It is four o'clock in the morning and I am leaving a cosy little speak on Broadway and ruminating on this very subject when a cab draws up and deposits a very elegant looking doll. She takes one look at me and says: "Would you like some company, honey?". Now this is most unusual, as good- looking dolls rarely approach me in this way. Before I can answer, she says: "What hotel you stayin' in?".

I explain to the doll that, contrary to her expectations, I am in fact residing with friends in their apartment on Central Park West. I am also thinking that this will make me a non-runner in her eyes, it being generally regarded by members of her obvious profession that Johns do not usually return to their hosts in such company, thus allowing me to ditch the doll in a courteous and polite manner, my having been brought up to always be courteous and polite when dealing with dolls.

"That's goin' my way," she says, "can I tag along?" As we walk, there is more chitchat along the lines that most dolls are good at making, and by the time we have walked half a block, she knows almost everything about me and why I'm over here.

"Look," she says, "why don't you give me a call next time you're in New York?"

"Good idea," I say, because it is, since it gives me a neat exit. So she stops, takes my arm and we step into a doorway. She digs around in her handbag and produces a notebook and pencil. But instead of writing down her John Doe, she hands them to me. So I ask her for her name.

"Euphenia," she replies.

Now Euphenia is a pretty uncommon name for a doll in anyone's language, and not really expecting her to part with her real monicker anyway, I play right along and ask her to spell the name out for me, which she successfully does.

After that she gives me her telephone number. And after that she gives me the clincher. And I use the word literally because, uninvited, she takes hold of me in a place that last time I was grabbed there, I was 12 years old and the doctor was asking me to cough.

She also offers to perform an oral act that a certain political intern of late has gone on record as giving the Leader of the Free World. Suffice to say I decline and escape into the night to find myself a cab.

Minutes later, my cab drops me outside my friends' apartment. I get out and reach into my front trouser pocket to pay and, guess what, no spondoolicks. In fact, no scratch left whatsoever.

The lovely Euphenia has lifted over two hundred dollars. And she has done it with no blackjack-wielding accomplice, no mace spray, just a lot of skill, subtlety and a certain amount of dexterity. In short, a highly skilled job by a very clever, scheming doll.

My cab driver was none too amused, but I think Nathan and the rest of the guys would have been justly proud.

Share your holiday nightmares by sending a 600-word account to: Holiday Disasters, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL. E-mail: sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

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