A couple of years ago, in a burst of enthusiasm for Geocaching, I stopped at an Army-Navy store on 30th street and asked if they carried ammo cans. The guy behind the counter, a tall West African guy, nodded sagely, then ran out the front door. Five minutes later, as I was just about to leave, he came back panting with two ammo cans and quoted me a price that was just about five bucks more than the going rate. I knew that some standard garment-district sleight-of-hand was going on, but it was a bird in the hand.
I’m not sure that it should even be called “sleight of hand”, anyhow: I wanted ammo cans, he got some ammo cans, we negotiated a price. It’s just not the way you normally do business in the States.
Today, I stopped by the same store on the way to the train to get a couple more cans (I want to make a waterproof housing for the hidden FM transmitters that will broadcast upcoming guerilla drive-in showings, as well for the projector’s transmitter), and saw the same guy sitting behind the desk. “Got any ammo cans?”
He shook his head apathetically. “Nooo. Go to Sixth Avenue, between thirty, thirty-first.”
So that answers two questions: where the first set of marked-up ammo cans came from (I had envisioned a basement cache), and how far he had run the first time (about a mile, round-trip.) No wonder he was tired!