Not long ago, I got off the express bus at Madison Square Park with a friend to attend a business dinner at a smart restaurant nearby. A young man holding an instrument case rushed over to my friend and asked if he would sell the black shirt that he was wearing.
The young man explained that he desperately needed the shirt: he was late to play a gig and had no luck finding a black shirt at nearby stores. My friend could name his price and he would gladly pay it. After a moment’s hesitation, my friend took off his sport jacket, removed his shirt and handed it over, saying, “Fifty dollars!”
The musician, much relieved, agreed. But, he added, he couldn’t get the cash until his break. Would that be O.K.? Where could he bring the money? My friend pointed at the restaurant and said, “Right there!”
Wearing the jacket over his undershirt, my friend now sported that alternative look. I joked that he would never see the man or the money, but my friend shrugged and said he’d take his chances.
We finished dinner, no sign of our gig man, but, as we were heading to the door, there he appeared, $50 in hand, offering profuse thanks again. My friend, however, said that he would take only $20 for the shirt. After some protesting, the musician agreed.
“Why just 20?” I asked we walked away.
My friend grimaced as he said:
“Well, I never liked that shirt. My ex-girlfriend gave it to me.”