Patsy Porco

Monk(ey) Business

In Humor, Manhattan, New York City on August 13, 2015 at 2:18 am

When I woke up today at 7:25 a.m., I figured I’d get dressed, go to the train station, where I’d buy an iced coffee, and then take the 8:36 train to Grand Central Station, which would get me to my office by 10 o’clock. That’s how my mornings usually go. However, the coffee place was closed when I got to the station, which meant I wouldn’t have any caffeine in my system until I got to work. It was a long ride.

It was an even longer walk to my job. The street I work on, West 38th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, has a very narrow sidewalk due to the scaffolding on both sides of it. There’s only room for two people at a time: one walking east and one walking west. As I walked westward, a small, bald, Asian man in a gray robe came toward me. He didn’t pass me, though; he walked directly up to me, crashing into my personal space.

He faced me, nose-to-nose, and handed me a shiny gold card on which was printed, “Work Smoothly, Lifetime Peace” on one side. The other side featured a Buddhist goddess. Then he flipped open a book, handed me a pen, and said, “Sign.” Not having the sense to do otherwise, I signed my first name under the list of names that were already there. I handed him his pen back and he said, “Write ‘Peace.'”

“What?” I asked.

“Write ‘Peace,'” he said, stabbing a finger at a column to the right of where I had written my name. I saw that earlier inscribers had all written “Peace,” so I took the pen and wrote “Peace.”

I started to walk past him and he blocked my way. “Donation,” he said. “Write donation.” Again he handed me the book. Next to the “Peace” column was a space for writing the amount of your contribution.

I gave the book back to him. “You want a donation?” I asked. He hadn’t even told me what he was collecting for.

“Donation,” he said. “Donation. Donation. Donation.”

I vaguely remember thinking, “Oh for God’s sake. How did I fall for this?” I wasn’t a tourist, after all. I’ve worked and lived in Manhattan on and off during twenty years. I knew enough to skirt the scammers. But due to my coffee-free blood, he had managed to ensnare me. I was very annoyed … both at him, and at myself.

But, because he wasn’t going to let me pass until I gave him money, I resignedly dug in my wallet, intending to give him a few dollars. The smallest bill I had was a $5 bill, so I held it up. He snatched it from me and said, “No. Twenny dollahs. Twenny dollahs. Twenny dollahs.”

“What?” I said. “I’m not giving you twenty dollars.”

He blocked my passage. Then he slid a wooden beaded bracelet on my wrist. “Twenny dollahs. Twenny dollahs. Twenny dollahs,” he repeated.

“Are you out of your mind?” I asked. “I am not giving you twenty dollars.”

“Ten dollahs,” he said. “Ten dollahs. Ten dollahs.” Then he reconsidered. “No, twenny dollahs. Twenny dollahs.”

“You know what?” I asked. “I’m not giving you anything. Give me back my five dollars.” I reached out and tried to grab the five-dollar bill from his hand. He held on tight. He pulled the bill one way. I pulled it the other way. “Give it to me,” I yelled. I didn’t look around to see if we were attracting attention. Probably not. New Yorkers tend to look away when they see middle-aged women wrestling with monks.

“Twenny dollahs,” he yelled as he tried to get me to release the five dollars.

“Give me my money!” I yelled as I pulled on the bill.

He ripped the money from my grasp. “Fine,” he shouted. Then he hustled down the street, away from me.

Heart pounding and blood pressure peaking, I continued down the street to work. By the time I got there, I no longer needed coffee.


  1. LOL business sure is tough (and so is starting office time without some coffee) 😀

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