Yesterday’s New York Times has an article subtitled “Panhandlers Dressed as Monks Confound New Yorkers.” I ran into one of these characters several weeks ago on a long walk downtown. I remember him and the shave-pate, saffron-robed woman panhandling near him with great fondness.
This one was on Broadway and 43rd, about 50 feet from a policeman. I thought initially that he was a real monk, and walked right up and addressed him politely in Chinese. He didn’t bat an eye but started immediately with the Buddha-card and the bracelet. It seemed to me he presented them, one after another, rather too smoothly for a real monk.
I asked him where he was from. “Taiwan,” he said. I said, “Master, I’ve lived in Taiwan for some years. Your accent doesn’t sound like what I hear there.” He said, “做好事, 做好事” [doing good works, doing good works].
While I was wondering whether he meant himself or me, he put his donation book under my nose. There was a cheap picture of a temple at the front, too hazy for me to read the name of it. The print in the book was all simplified characters, and all the entries were in one person’s handwriting. I said, “Master, if you’re from Taiwan, why do you have a Mainland donation book?” He said, “做好事, 做好事.” I guess that answers most of my questions.
Well, that morning I had come out without a cent on me — no, I really did — there was only my Metrocard between me and a long trek home the way I came. When I pulled my pants pocket inside out to show him I really had no money on me, he solemnly took back his Buddha card and bracelet and went away.
If you meet one of these guys, just tell him “xíngpiàn 行騙” [you’re a con-artist].