The deck on the Monterey Starbucks on Alvarado Street is usually warmed by the morning sun. That was not the case one rainy day last week when the weather forced me indoors where it was already crowded. No small tables were available so I grabbed a seat at the one long communal table, draping my wet jacket over the back of the chair.
I began working on the Word Game in the paper where you unscramble the letters of a host word and extract as many other words from it that you can. The word was “ocarinas.” The first word I extracted was “corn” I stuck with the C words and got cairn, coin, casa, and casino when a voice said: “I see you’re buying a lot of corn.” A young man with short blonde hair and bright blue eyes sat down next to me. He had a cup of coffee and a soccer ball. He also placed three presidential dollar coins in front of him, along with a medallion with an American flag on its face. It was fairly obvious from his clothing and ragged backpack that he was homeless or a wanderer.
I told him I wasn’t buying corn and explained the word game to him. He said it was OK if I didn’t want it to get around that I was buying a lot of corn. He told me his name was John, which he wrote down for me along with his last name, which was very Germanic, and his Incan name, Yanaconas, a name given to him by the spirits. He wrote down his address in Pebble Beach, his birthday October 17, 1994 at 6:45A.M., although he appeared to be older than 18. He asked me if I was familiar with the Chase Bank across the street. I told him I did my banking there.
“I’m in the process of buying it,” John said. I asked him where he got the money to buy Chase Bank.
“I already own Bank of America,” he told me, “so money isn’t a problem, “But I’m going to change the name to Bank of America.”
“What’s the asking price,” I said.
He told me it was in the trillions but he expected the deal to close shortly. Then he told me that because I was so friendly he was going to give the bank to me. I thanked him for his generosity but told him I liked the name Chase.
He wasn’t sure about that and suggested I come up with an alternate name.
“How about Bank of AmeriChase,” I said.
“Deal” he exclaimed.
“Why the soccer ball,” I asked. With a great deal of enthusiasm he told me he plays for the San Jose Quakes. I asked if he knew Landon Donovan, one of the best soccer players in America.
“Of course I know him. But he plays for Los Angeles so we’re rivals. Although we played together in the World Cup matches.”
The dollar coins portrayed the likenesses of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.
“Which one do you like,” he asked.
I told him I considered myself a Jeffersonian.
“Here,” he said, “take it. It’s a gift.”
“I’ll only take it if you accept a greenback dollar for it.” He didn’t want to do that.
“Consider it another business transaction like buying the bank.”
“I’ll accept it under those circumstances.”
I asked about the gold medallion.
“The President gave it to me at the White House for meritorious service to the country.”
Then he excused himself and went outside to smoke, leaving his coffee and soccer ball on the table.
Another coffee drinker sat down across from me, a well-dressed man, who opened his laptop, attached his blue tooth phone to his ear and immediately began a phone conversation, speaking as loudly as if he were in his private office. There was an empty table available so I moved to it. Moments later John stood in front of me holding the rain jacket I left draped over the chair. I explained why I had moved and invited him to join me. Just then the store manager came up and asked if “this man” was bothering me. I said no, he brought me the jacket I had left at the other chair. The manager said she had been observing John for some time and asked him to leave. I don’t know if someone else had complained but she was adamant, so he gathered his belongings and left.
I know the manager was just doing her job when she asked John to leave. Perhaps he was a little to animated for most of the customers. My choice would have been to have the computer guy removed. Had she done what so many of us do – make a judgment based on appearances? The well-dressed computer guy was far more intrusive, obnoxious, and offensive than the poorly dressed free spirit. And the computer guy didn’t even offer to buy me my own bank.