By Carol Yost
One recent Thursday evening (November 2nd), I saw a pale, thin, elderly woman sitting on the sidewalk with her back against a building on the western edge of Union Square—I think it was at 14th Street. She had a cart full of mysterious items next to her. I pulled out $5. She reached into a small handbag, revealed four blue ballpoint pens, and thrust them at me. I refused. I told her, truthfully, that I collected many, many beautiful pens and that I didn’t need those. She wouldn’t hear of it and when I continued to protest, she pushed the $5 bill back at me. “Bye, bye,” she smiled.
I guess I should have taken the pens so that she’d take the money, but then she wouldn’t have had them to sell to someone else.
Truly, I collect novelty pens of all kinds. I have ones that look like lollipops, hard candy, birds on twigs, flowers; some that light up when you press them to paper; New York souvenirs with tiny, dangling King Kongs, taxis, Statues of Liberty; some with inner-street scenes that feature taxis and vendors which move along the street as you move the pens; some with animal heads or the figures of cartoon characters; some with fluffy little emojis; some in the shape of squirrels and dogs; one with a sheep’s head that bleats and whose eyes flash when you press on it; then the seasonal ones with Santas, snowmen or ghosts; some that are simply beautifully decorated; and on it goes.
But I guess I should have taken her pens so that she’d have the $5 without feeling it was charity. A lesson learned! Those four blue pens would have had special meaning.