40 Years in America

An MFT Halloween

Robert Beebe

In October 1978, my sixth month on MFT, I was challenging for a green pin, the first of three months in which I should make a $120 average. It came down to the final day in which I had to make a certain amount (now forgotten) to be able to attain that average for the month. Of course, the last day of October is Halloween.

Our team was in Providence, RI -- a place well known in our region for its red-necked Italian-American brand of anti-Moonie negativity. That morning I was taken out early (apparently I had to make a sizable amount that day) and dropped off at the downtown fish market. I was selling so-called silk roses (which werenít really silk at all). Luck (or providence, or whatever) would have it that the owner of the first place I went to was extremely negative. It seems that he had just gotten his daughter out of the movement. Loudly he proclaimed that he was going to call the police on me. I took it as an idle threat, but quickly made myself scarce and started again a few shops down the road.

Not ten minutes later a police van (i.e., paddy wagon) pulled up next to me. Three officers jumped out, handcuffed me behind my back and tossed me into the back of the van, all the while sharing with me their views on the Unification Church in the Providence, RI vernacular. I was taken down to police headquarters and put into a jail cell until they could figure out what to do with me.

A couple of hours later I found myself being escorted into a large room with many people. I was brought up onto a stage where I could see that I was the last in a line of shady characters. I was in a police line-up! One by one the officer in charge went down the line asking the men what they had been charged with, I guess in order to determine what to do next with them -- trial, fine, etc. So it went: burglary, arson, rape, vandalism. When he came to me, I said, of course, "selling flowers." With that, the whole room broke into laughter and the head officer shouted, "Get that guy outta here!" A few minutes later I was back out on the streets with my full bucket of flowers. So my day began.

I donít remember much about the rest of the day until that evening when I was put out in some kind of college bar area near the center of the city. Remember, it was Halloween. There were about four bars, some more like discos, around a small, central square area along which ran a road. All night I just had to stay in that central square catching people coming out of the various establishments.

Being Halloween night, people were dressed up in all kinds of costumes and, being Halloween night, as time wore on the atmosphere was getting more and more crazy. Around 10 pm my captain came by to check on me. I still had a ways to go to make my goal. He could see how the atmosphere was becoming and suggested taking me somewhere else. However, I was doing quite well and thought that this was probably the place where I stood the best chance to make the result I needed. He told me okay, but to be careful and that he would be back around 1 am for the final pick-up. Not long after he left, a guy came up to me showing a strong interest in my artificial flowers. So strong, in fact, that he said he wanted to buy them all. Immediately, dollars signs came vividly into my stream of vision. Only thing was, he said, the money was in his wallet, which was in his car around the corner. Come with me, he said. Normally, I am cautious about this kind of thing, but he had a girl with him (a taming influence, I thought) and, in any case, the thought of making my goal there and then was just too much to resist. I followed him as in a trance.

No sooner had we gotten around the corner when he suddenly tried to grab the flowers out of my bucket. I was quick to catch the other end of the stems and there we were each tugging at either end of the bunch. Not being real flowers, they stood up quite well to the abusive treatment. The would-be thief was finding it not so easy to tear them away from me. Then, suddenly there appeared the sole of a shoe in front of my face and the next thing I knew my glasses were flying, I was falling and most of the flowers were out of my hand (I still held onto a few). From the pavement I watch him climb triumphantly into his car with his untaming girlfriend and drive off.

It didnít take long for the whole left side of my face to swell up until I must have begun to take on the appearance of one of the Halloween goons. My face became my costume. So, people didnít seem to be too surprised at the way I looked as I approached them to try to sell my remaining flowers. I eventually sold them and waited for the van, trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible.

Fortunately, my captain came with an empty van -- although an hour late. He had already brought everyone else back to the center. Of course, I still had not made my goal, having lost more than half my product. After overcoming his shock upon seeing my face and hearing my story, he determined that, under the circumstances, I deserved a special time extension to try to make the goal. I would be given until noon the next day (actually that day). Now we would go to an all-night Dennyís for some soup, which was about all I could get into my mouth. After some recuperation at Dennyís and a short nap in the van, I was put out at a stoplight at six in the morning.

"See you at twelve," my captain said. "Mansei!" For a long time the traffic was rather slow and people didnít seem too interested in flowers, especially artificial ones, so early in the morning. Maybe they were put off by my appearance, too. The left side of my face had hardened into a mass of numbness. Well, I persevered and, yes, my story has a happy ending: I made my goal and, a few months later, I earned my green pin.

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