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Wednesday, 23 March
You Give A Little, You Get A Little

Tonight our friend K. was getting kicked out of her apartment, as her guy needed to commandeer the place to have some sort of meeting for an upcoming theatricalish event. (Troublingly, he is evidently going to be a DJ-ish persona for some whacked-out late night performance: later in the evening, he showed us his new toy, a terrible Yamaha keyboard thing that was mostly amusing for its ability to, at the press of a button, play awful Casiotone-y genre music. And also, at the press of another button, to shout out a tinny canned voice yelling "Deejay!" There's something really great about hearing artificial banjo music being coughed up by a machine and then hearing it punctuated by a shout of "Deejay!" Then K. would play helicopter noises. It was kind of like listening to a Ross Gellar opus.)

Anyway. K. the non-DJ needed out, and so we decided to meet up for some cheap Mexican food; we grabbed her at her apartment and we made our way up to Broadway. Well, not true--we largely avoided Broadway, as Broadway is the main drag (in so many ways) of our neighborhood, and filled with panhandlers and Save The Annoying Children types, and that sort of thing, so we stayed on the byways in order to avoid being hassled.

It didn't work at all. We eventually had to turn up to Broadway to actually enter the restaurant, and in the intervening half-block, we were accosted by a hurricane of a woman. She was ostensibly chainsawing people on behalf of her daughter (present), raising money for . . . well, I kind of missed it. All I know is, suddenly she was in lockstep with me, and she was unstoppable.

"Hello how you all doin' tonight? I'm gonna do this in sixty seconds, and Lord it may kill me--you should see my feet! Be blessed you can't feel 'em, but here's the thing, my daughter needs to travel to the heart of the sun to fetch herself the Eye of the Crocodile Lord, I swear--I ain't crazy! But listen, all they got is a van and a prayer, so I am out here to help her, because I'm told I have a big mouth and so I'm hopin' you good people will consider buying some candy bars and makin' a donation, 'cause I am telling you that if I don't shoot my daughter into the sun, then what kind of momma am I? I ask you! And you should see this van, it ain't fit for solar travel! No! So listen . . . "

We were paralyzed by this whole verbal barrage, not to mention the daughter, who tagged around in the background shouting hosannas of encouragement: "That's right! We thank you!" We all wore the frozen smiles of the Urban Cornered: "There's no good way to get out of this, is there?" Well, of course there was. We could have easily said, "Not interested, no, get lost, sorry." Or, more coarsely, "Get the fuck out of my face, you yammering hellfinch!"

I decided rather quickly that it was well worth my money to get rid of this woman as soon as possible. I cut her off. "Okay!" I interjected. "How much for a candy bar?"

"Five dollars."

A bargain at a sixth of the price! Rapture! "Fine," I said.

I had only twenties and . . . four ones. I turned to the wife. "Do you have an extra buck?" I asked. This was taking longer than I wanted. The huckster woman set down her box of candy bars on a nearby sidewalk planter, her eyes shifting all around.

"You all only want one candy bar?" Yep. "You can make donations too!" K. shrugged and pulled out a dollar to give her. In the meantime, the wife was failing to find an extra buck. This was getting a little exhausting. I said, "Okay, can you break a twenty?"

"Sure!" she exclaimed, and then this is where things got really dizzying. For one thing, I could tell that she was less than pleased that we were only buying one lousy fucking candy bar--five dollars?!--and for another thing, she had her cash stowed all over her damn coat pockets. Okay, so I had four singles, and I thought the wife had another to make five, but she didn't, and so we ended up handing money back and forth, and since that didn't work, I ended up grabbing a twenty to buy the candy bar, but then the wife did too, and there was some confusion as to who was paying for what (on our end), and in the meantime the aggressive woman was digging out wads of money from her coat to try and give us our change (still kind of upset that we weren't giving her more money than we obviously could, but I'm kind of on the fence about shooting children into the sun), and so it turned into this big horrible mess that always happens when I fail to listen to my impulses about shit like this.

Later on, K. said that she had totally lost the flow of what the hell was going on with the money, and that she was really worried that we were suddenly involved in one of those crappy scams where con artists bewilder you with monetary gymnastics until you're so dazed that you don't even realize that the scammer just walked off with all of your money.

And truth be told, so was I. I have, years ago when working retail, gotten nailed by just this very ruse. So I watched the money like a hawk: at one point, she handed me a roll of cash--"Hold this, would you, honey?"--and I also handed the wife some dough--she was also trying to help me make my five dollar contribution, or something . . . the money all whirled. As I say, I was vigilant. In the end, finally, we got it worked out, and the woman took the twenty and dutifully gave back fifteen in change.

We started away, but then she called us back. "Are you sure I gave you back fifteen? I might have given you sixteen!" Sigh. The wife once again counted the change. No, we got our fifteen back. We had paid our fee for the five-dollar candy bar, which, I noted a bit later, she forgot to give me. Whatever.

But of course, we didn't get it right at all. I was not as hawkeyed as I imagined. You know where this is going.

When we had eaten and the bill came, we all pulled out our wallets. I looked at the contents, and I stared with bad feelings. Something was very wrong. I counted my money three times before I realized what had happened.

In the hurricane of money exchanges, someone had gotten really fucked. And it was the candy bar woman. Somewhere along the line, she had given me, in exchange for my five bucks, exactly twenty-three dollars.

The wife heroically went to look for the woman to see if her and her daughter were still around. They weren't. There was nothing to be done.

Thanks, candy bar woman, for the donation. Sorry about your daughter. Buy sunblock.

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You prick! You must go immediately to Broadway and roam around until you find this woman you have so egregiously wronged.

Comment number: 005635   Posted by: Joe on March 23, 2005 01:04 PM from IP:

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