It is nearing the noontime rush hour in the City Hall area. The fat receptionist has been patient, up to a point, but now she's ticked. "You mean to tell me," she says to the bearded man in front of her desk, "that you...you mean to stand here and tell me that you got no identification?"
The bearded man shakes his head.
"No driver's license?"
She sighs at the wonder of it. She pokes a co-worker so that they can share this moment. This is the central police headquarters in one of the biggest cities in the world—maybe seven or eight million potential perpetrators milling around in it—and here is the one guy in town who can't prove who he is. In the po-lice station.
"I've got a business card," the man says.
"Honey, we all got business cards," the fat lady shoots back, "but that ain't identification."
Finally, the group surrounding the bearded man offers to vouch for him: This chap is, indeed, Fred Lebow, just as his business card says. He is, indeed, the president of the New York Road Runners Club, and he's expected right now at a very important meeting in the Traffic Division upstairs to discuss, among other things, the New York Marathon. And while the lady is filling out the visitor's permit, shaking her head, one of the group turns aside, speaking low. "Fred always travels light," he says.
Oh, absolutely. Fred is ready to break out running at any moment. He travels in baggy warmup pants over nylon running shorts, running shoes, sweat socks, a T shirt and the ubiquitous black plastic running watch. And an Italian-style bicycling cap, suitable for wearing frontward or backward. It's the particular magic of this style of cap that everybody thinks he looks good in one, when actually the exact reverse is true.
Every piece of Lebow's costume bears the insignia of some manufacturer, and everything is free. If it doesn't come free, Fred won't wear it; it's a matter of firm principle with him. He has huge stacks of warmup outfits in all colors and in various stages of repair, and he wears them to the office, on business trips, on planes, to lunches or dinners in the most elegant restaurants.