I

FIRST CAUGHT SIGHT OF THE

yellow-jacketed man striding down 14th near I, talking to nothing. His sport coat was incandescent lemon, matched exactly by his tie. The sunglasses completed the Max Headroom look. "And the beauty of it, buddy," he was saying into the air, "is I'm now the chairman of the Mortgage Committee." I looked a bit more closely and spotted the small gray-white telephone. Fascinating. He didn't look like Secret Service. I said hello.

He looked up, not unhappy to be interrupted. On the contrary, he had that bright salesman's grin that told me he had been waiting all day for me -- yes, me -- to cut short his mid-block conversation. His name was on his card but I could call him Bix. He called me buddy.

Bix was happy to tell me about the phone. The phone was super. It went for a mere $2,100. He handed it to me and said, "Go ahead, call your office."

I called my own number instead. I am no great fan of high tech, but I had recently bought a new answering machine. I dialed, listened to my announcement, hit the three-digit code and heard -- no messages. No nothing. "No one called," I muttered. "But the phone works," cried Bix. "It's great. In two or three years, everybody'll have one."

As we walked on, I gradually realized that Bix was not selling the phone. Bix was selling Bix. Bix part-owned nightclubs. Bix was on several important realty committees. Bix was involved in deals far too delicate to explain, which he then explained anyway. Bix . . .

. . . I was Bixed out. He was too much for me. When our paths finally diverged, I was grateful. I returned to work and forgot all about him.

I went home that night and turned on my answering machine. Its counter indicated a message. Anticipation. And then, my own voice: "No one called." Followed hyperenthusiastically by, "But the phone works. It's great." Click. Yeah. Me and Bix, together again, united by our machines.