French Fries

During my lunch hour today I wanted to drop off a fountain pen for repair.
This meant a walk to Downtown Crossing in the shopping district, an area swarming with people today due to the warm spring-like weather.

The Bromfield Pen Shop is a place I have dreams about with all their pens, cool ink and exotic paper.
It’s the only place in Boston to take a sick pen; the patient of the day: a Mont Blanc fountain pen.
As I walked down Washington Street, grilled sausages, onions and red and green peppers assaulted my olfactory senses.
I was hungry. I had thoughts of mustard.

I was limited on time so I dropped off the pen and didn’t chance a look at the new inks that had undoubtedly come in.
I am a big-time sucker for creatively colored inks.
Thank my lucky stars I didn’t have the time to spend money I don’t have on inks I really don’t need.
And ink is sooooo cool.
You have no idea.

I left the pen shop and walked up Bromfield Street when I saw a sign for a tres cool sandwich shop. I walked in and saw a line longer than the bank on payday.
I would settle for a grilled chicken sandwich from Burger King. (yummy, right?)
I sat down to eat and noticed an older black man panhandling right outside the front door.
This guy was a bit different though.
He wasn’t asking for money, though he did hold a large BK cup in his hand.
I watched through the glass as he mouthed ‘hello’ and ‘have a nice day, now’ to the many people walking by.
He was polite and generally unobtrusive for a needy guy.

And he was needy.

He stood about my height (5’8”) and had on ratty clothes, the overall effect topped off with a weathered Boston Red Sox hat.
His toothless smile seemed almost innocuous. . . inviting.
You almost wanted to forgive him though he’d done no wrong, if that makes any sense.

As a rule, I don’t give money to street people.
I might offer a piece of fruit or a bottle of water if I have an extra.

I reached into my BK bag and took out an order of French Fries that I hadn’t ordered.
I brought them up to the register and told the woman that waited on me that I hadn’t ordered them. She waved her hand in a ‘no comprende’ way and said ‘keep them’.

I haven’t been eating fries lately and decided my windfall would be a snack for the man outside ‘working the street’.

I ate my lunch and continued to watch this man smile, say hello, give directions and take whatever this unblinking society would give him.
I finished my sandwich and grabbed the bag with the fries (still sufficiently hot) and left.
I walked up and handed him the bag and said, “Here, eat these. You do eat fries, don’t ya’?”

You would have thought I’d just given him a winning lottery ticket.

He smiled and said, “Bless you, my brother. Bless your heart.”

I walked across Tremont Street and through a warm, sunny Boston Common back to work, oddly happy to have been sincerely blessed.



15 thoughts on “French Fries

  1. i’m sure it wasn’t just the fries but that you ‘saw’ him and blessed him with your acknowledgment too. sounds as though you were both blessed.

    That’s a really nice way to look at this scene.


  2. The street vendors in Downtown Crossing were just told by Anne Meyers of the Downtown Crossing Association that after 25 years they will be kicked out by the developers of the old Filene’s building. Next time anyone’s in the area it would be nice to buy that sausage or handbag and wish them well. They work outside all winter and have just had their livelihoods taken away.

    Things are a’changing up on the hill these days.
    I didn’t know about the vendors.
    I swear Boston has a customer deathwish regarding Downtown Crossing.
    If they want to make it a ghost town, they’re well on their way.
    Thanks for the visit, James.
    And I will buy a few saugsages next time I’m downtown…


  3. and people wonder how it is that i can have an enormous liking, respect and admiration for a person I’ve never even met?..perhaps i should direct them to stories such as these and they may, just may, understand..

    It wasn’t anything I’d even planned on doing.
    I didn’t feel overly altruistic either.
    It was just something that I felt needed to be done.
    I’m no angel but I thank you for the warm comment.
    Thanks, Moe.


  4. I understand, anonymum!
    And, yes, Michael, ink is cool. I don’t think there’s anywhere in my town to get a fountain pen fixed.

    Send it to Bromfield Pen. Google it for info.
    These guys do great work.
    If you call, ask for Bruce.
    He’s a personal friend of mine.
    I will tell you that everyone there is pretty nice. And they know their stuff.


  5. Awesome, french fries are the best. So are people who share them. Were there any ketchup packs in the bag? I have a tshirt that says ‘life isn’t worth living without ketchup’. Not that that was in ANY way relevant to the good deed in your story, I tend to get sidetracked when I’m hungry and people are talking about fries.

    You must be (in some strange way) related to my daughters.
    Their use of ketchup disgusts me.
    No one needs half a frickin’ bottle on a small order of fries, ya know?
    Hungry, eh?


  6. Michael, It’s a good thing I only go to the city a few times a year, and yes I always make sure to have lots of change. I’m a sucker for the homeless. Not the young one’s who insult you if you don’t give them money, but the older guys, who are polite or they will try to sing a song or tell a joke.
    My sons joke that if you want money, just lay on the ground and hold out your hat.
    Well,,,,,those old guys have it hard. I’m sure they have many stories to tell. God only knows what happened to them. There but for the grace of God…and the streets can be mean and cold at any time of the year.

    I feel for the old guys, too.
    I give a cold shoulder to anyone that feels I owe them something.
    I felt good about this one.


  7. That was a lovely gesture, m. Unfortunately, i’ve been in a position of need and that extra order of fries or that extra bottle of water can make one feel so humble, so grateful. Someone cared.

    Also, i LOVE pens too. Ah, if only i had a bottomless budget for writing accessories… heavy fountain pens with burgundy or indigo ink, beautiful leather-bound journals, coffee mugs the size of my head… 😉 It is nice to dream!

    Try some Noodler’s Ink. They make a number of very nice red inks.
    Humility is a wonderful thing. . . to possess and to observe in others.


  8. Hope he doesn’t sue you for upping his cholesterol numbers.

    In this day and age, that sounds about right, huh?
    And the goddamned judicial system would probably side with him.
    Go figure.
    Nice angle, Evyl…


  9. It takes a big man to give up his french fries. 😉 However, unlike most of your readers, I have the pleasure (usually) of knowing you in person, and it comes as no surprise to me that you would have done this.


    Sweet, Smitty. Honestly.


  10. it never crossed my mind it was planned in any way…you did what you felt you should do without a thought which makes it that little bit more special from where i sit 🙂
    hope to be back some time this week…light more candles ok???

    I don’t like to give myself credit I guess.
    I do believe I will get the good deed back in some way though, not a reason for doing it but a thought.
    How’s the connection snafu going?
    You must be going nuts!
    Soon. . .


  11. This story leaves me feeling a little lighter in step, too. Such a small gesture that meant to much between strangers, reminding us that we’re all connected. It could just as easily be one of us…still.

    Connected. I like that thought.


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