In 2000, when I first moved to New York City I wanted to write about all the unique experiences I was having. Having no writing background or skills, I set out with what I called my ‘Mint Stories.’ Although I really wanted to make some changes to them I have posted them in their original form, unedited.
Somewhere along the way, in my ongoing quest for happiness, I stumbled across something very special. Something that can turn a bad day upside-down. A power so strong it can help you mesmerize others with clarity. It may be too strong for some. The Altoid™, “a curiously strong mint®”, is this special happiness i speak of. You think that is quite an unusual statement to make, perhaps even call me insane to qualify a mint to represent happiness. We have all been there, that place we don’t like to remember: right after that routine breakfast of bagel and cream cheese, orange juice, and a whole lot of delicious coffee. You start to realize that your breath isn’t as pleasant as you would like it to be. It’s kind of sticky, a bit overheated, and is starting to make-even you- nauseous. Now is the time to find that obnoxiously anal retentive coworker (i happen to be one of those people) who might be packing some Altoids. Pure, unadulterated, clean wholesome pleasure is your experience once you accept the Altoid. It’s like a car wash for your mouth! You feel great afterwords, have more confidence, and become more successful on a long term basis. How could you deny that as happiness? The most convenient detail of the whole situation is that you can find these tasty mints at any corner store. Yes, happiness lies at every corner.
Having gone to college in Baltimore, I gained an infinite tolerance towards panhandlers, as Baltimore is the capital city of this increasingly popular occupation. Now that I live in Manhattan and make more money than I ever have, and being as poor as I can remember, i am saddened that I cannot help these citizens. Walking uptown at midnight one evening, I was pondering this problem with no intent to solve it, when a panhandler approached me. There are rules you realize. A person cannot deny someone change, even if they know they have none, without first pretending to search one’s pockets. While looking quite astonished at the reality of having no change to give, my hands fumbled across something, a new addiction I had picked up. An addiction for emergency, only when I really needed it. i figured I had maybe seven mints left in my pocket, surely enough to spare, and this was an emergency. I held his hand still and placed the mint in his palm as if I had just given him a ruby. He looked mildly puzzled at first, as if I were attempting to drug him with some new pill. I smiled and assured him that it was definitely a mint. As I left his company I had not gone two blocks before hearing the screams. “Happy New Year! Happy New Year!” he proclaimed while waving at me. I waved back and then continued on my way with a smile, he had enjoyed the mint.
The NYC subway has an amazing social scene, especially late nights. Every trip I take, has lead me into conversation with some unique character, some too outrageous to be real. One evening, I used poor train placement and chose to stand in the middle of the car even though there were plenty of seats. I had put myself into a really uncomfortable situation, the choice I made was obviously one made by someone who wasn’t thinking clearly. Feeling the eyes of all the other train riders peering me up and down I wondered if things could get any worse? Yes; they could. A most insane panhandler entered the train weaving a sad and perilous tale of poverty in new york city, begging us (all subway riders big and small) to help. He staggered obnoxiously up and down the train, a few onlookers giving change and trinkets, all the rest of us pretending that he had mysteriously become invisible. Slowing to a stop at the next station our man turned to leave and made direct eye contact with me! Frantically searching my pockets I realized I had no change, but I did have something of value to aid him in his quest. “Sir, would you like a mint?” I asked with smiling enthusiasm. He stared me down for what seemed an eternity as I noticed the entire train watching the fiasco. He accepted my offer and popped the mint into his mouth quickly. As he left the train he produced a huge grin of satisfaction as the mint began to work its charm. Observing this put me at a very high mint confidence level. As he left, yet another penniless madman entered our car. Apparently, this man had drank a considerable amount more then the other, as he was pent up with a lot of anger. He duplicated the sad story of the man before him, making me feel like a sucker for giving him a mint, as this was surely the real McCoy of homelessness. The man screaming across the train at me, and knowing I had a few more mints, I nodded; assuring him that I had a gift for him. I produced the precious mint between my thumb and forefinger like a jewel. Snatching the mint from my fingers, he looked at me with a dreadful fire in his eyes. I became a bit nervous at this reaction, the man now backing up slowly. “What is this!” said the angry man. Unsure of how to proceed, I decided to be honest and truthful. “That is a mint.” I said attempting a smile. Someone was throwing gasoline on those fires in his eyes because I was sweating profusely from the rise in temperature! “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this!” he asked. I told him that eating it was his best option. “Fuck you! This is mother fuckin’ New York City!” he screamed while returning my mint to me. If any subway rider was sleeping or not paying us attention earlier, we now had a full audience; standing room only. The doors opened; he left.