Change

My buddy Mike and I sometimes kill some time in the morning by hanging out in the plaza outside the federal building.  Sometimes I drink, but Mike does virtually every day.  Because what better place to commit a petty misdemeanor than federal property?  Mike realizes he’ll have to tithe, as roughly every tenth beer will need to be poured out at the behest of a cop.
 
Here’s part of our conversation this morning, punctuated with laughter as usual:
 
“There’s two nice little asses,” he needlessly pointed out as two Spanish girls walked up to the building.
 
Since we assumed that every foreigner was there for its immigration services, I commented to Mike, “‘Hey Rosalitas, if shit doesn’t work out for you up there, you can marry us for the green cards’.”
 
“Just pay for the honeymoon; a week in a hotel and a keg or two.”
 
“And it’s got to have cable.  I may be good for consummation eight times a day, but that still leaves 23 and a half hours to kill.”
 
“You can leave after the first day.  I don’t care.”
 
“They wouldn’t go for you anyway.  I’d be creepy old too them, but you’d be creepy old-old.”  Referring to Mike’s irritation at being mistaken for a Mexican, I quipped, “Plus, you’d remind them too much of their homeland.  They’d go for me, the Arab or Jew or Greek or Italian.”
 
“Look at that chick!”
 
“Yeah?” 
 
“She’s got high heel boots on, dressed all nice, but she walks right through that muddy grass rather than take a few extra steps to stay with the concrete.”
 
“She’s a natural hiker like me.  With an appreciation for Euclidean geometry.  Take the shortest distance between two points.”
 
“Or else she just wanted to stay as far away from us as possible.”
 
“Shit, you’re probably right.”
 
“Here comes this fuckin’ asshole,” he motioned to an approaching homeless guy, “he’s here every day, sitting at that bench and panhandling.”
 
“And you would know because?”
 
“Because he’s on my turf, motherfucker!  He annoys me.”
 
“This is how homeless wars start, man.”
 
“Yeah, and I’m a Marine.  Didn’t exactly fight in any wars, though.”
 
“Hey, the Cold War was a war.”
 
“Yep.  We didn’t have to wear vests; just needed a blanket.”
 
“I crack up at some of these panhandlers that don’t know what they’re doing or do it in a lazy way.  Even the experienced ones.  Like, ‘Dude, you don’t deserve a quarter’.”
 
“Or like that chick asking for a couple bucks [whom we saw earlier].  I don’t even bother trying to be nice to people asking for more than a little change,” not that Mike is known for trying to be nice to anyone.  “Shit, I’ll help them out if I got it.”
“If that guy’s there every day, let’s meet here early tomorrow and set up a scavenger hunt for $20 that I hide somewhere, just to see if he does it and can uncrack the riddles.”
 
“I don’t think that guy’s smart enough to crack nothing too complicated.”
 
“Well I figured that.  We’ll make it simple and easy.  ‘Fish in cages’ will be the Aquarium.  ‘Sounds like there should be art there but there’s stores’ will be The Gallery.  We’ll even give him a mulligan for one and just give an address.”
 
“You want to go to all this trouble to maybe lose $20, even though some other asshole will find it long before he gets off his ass?”
 
“That makes it a game for us, to see whether he starts it at all, provided we can convince him there really is $20.  We’ll give him an hour, and if he doesn’t move, I’ll go up and say, ‘Excuse me, I left something here.’  Then I’ll pull out the 20 spot I taped underneath the bench.”
 
“Then send him on a wild goose chase the next day?”
 
“Sadistic bastard.”
 
“Yep.  You ever see that guy a block away?  The one that just sits there with a cup and says, ‘Change, change, change’?”
 
“Actually, I saw him earlier, and he was just saying, ‘Ch, ch, cha’.  But he was standing.”
 
“He can’t even get the word with one syllable out anymore?  The fucking people are going to be halfway down the street before he spits the word out.”
 
“I don’t know; maybe he’s a big David Bowie fan.”
 
“Yeah, and he’s singing for money.  ‘Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes’!”
 
“Maybe we could make him a sign.  I’ll splurge on a marker.”
 
“But we have to spell it wrong.  I’ll try to spell it right because I can’t spell anyway.”
 
“As much as you read?”
 
“You’re right.  I just can’t remember if there’s one j or two.”
*   *   * 
Before we parted ways for the day, we went to the aforementioned Gallery so I could rid my bladder of coffee, he his of beer.  On our way out, we saw the stuttering panhandler, who greeted us with a ‘Hey, my brothers, how’s it going?”  He was carrying a soda.
 
Unlike Mike, I try not to be rude (read: I’m a phony).  Yet I couldn’t help but laugh as Mike and I exchanged puzzled looks 20 steps later.
 
“Damn,” I remarked, “that change did him good.”
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