Here is the scene, seven people walking down the legendary Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in the South Beach section of Miami. It is a hot humid late summer evening. The street is packed with people heading home from work, out to dinner or just wandering around. The cafes and bars are in full swing even though it is a Wednesday evening. It doesn't seem like this town gets much rest.
This evening, along with the rest of the multicultural buzz of Miami, there are four Dutch people, one Canadian and two Americans each with a large bucket of stunning tulip bunches. The game they are playing is, Who can hand out their bucket of tulips first?
Buckets of California grown tulips.
One would think this is an easy task, handing out free flowers on a busy metropolitan street. We found out it's not as easy as it sounds, and it actually is a weird exploration into the state our society.
At a corner, a couple women wait to cross the street, I hold out a 10 stem bunch of yellow tulips.
"Free tulips, have a bunch."
"Really, they are free."
"That's OK, no thank you."
"So you don't want free tulips, no strings attached?"
"Well...OK. Wow, they are beautiful, thank you"
"Yellow Flight" tulips.
As the light turns, we walk away to the next unsuspecting victim.
I turn my gaze to an older gentleman sitting on a bench smoking a cigar,
"Here you go sir, free tulips tonight."
He replies in a thick Cuban accent as he graciously accepts them.
Next an attractive younger couple, I hold out a bunch of purple tulips,
"Oh, why thank you young man, they're beautiful."
The guy looks at me with a menacing glance, pulls his girl close and keeps walking. She looks over her shoulder, a little dismayed.
"Free for the lady."
I say to the next couple,
They seem friendlier,
They stop and accept the bouquet, they nearly cheer as they admire the blooms.
"no tip, no strings, not selling time shares, just giving away flowers."
With seven people all doing this down the pedestrian mall, people start to lighten up, the maître'd at an outdoor cafe deftly produces a vase from under his stand for us to fill.
At the next cafe, some older men wave me over. They know the value of flowers, their temporal nature and their singular beauty, if crazy people are handing them out for free, they aren't going to be shy.I offer a bunch to an older woman, she answers in a thick New Yorker accent,
A slick guy gliding by on roller-blades is watching us suspiciously,
"I don't like red, ...do you have yellow, oh wait look at those purple ones, can I have those?"
I proclaim, and hand out a bunch for him to grab mid-stride. He puckers his face, and just before he skates off empty handed shouts,
"Free, my ass!"
We arrive at a delightful watering hole. The leader of our tulip gang, the famous Dutch flower designer Pieter Landman, has a word with the bartender. She blushes a little as he places some tulips on the bar, and suddenly all of us have been a served a refreshing glass of white wine. We sip our wine and watch the stream of people walk by the cafe, many of them carry tulips.
We recount how much effort it took to give away free flowers, is our society cynical? Yes. Interestingly, it seems the younger people were much wearier of it being some sort of scam than the older folks, perhaps flower give aways happened all the time back in the old days?
It was a great exercise in the power of flowers to brighten someone's day or just the unexpected joy of being in the right place at the right time. For the next several days how many people enjoyed those tulips sitting in a vase in their home or office? I am sure they not only enjoyed their color and scent but also the way they were handed out in a random happy go lucky fashion.
What is it about flowers that make them so magical? Is it their fleeting beauty? Their dramatic poses? Their vibrant color? Or perhaps their scent that somehow clears out a day's worth of stress with one whiff? Of course, it is all these things. Flowers are intrinsically tied to our memories, to music, to our family and to all aspects of life.
A patron in the restaurant is eyeing the bartender's tulips perched on the bar. There are still a few colorful bunches left at our table. Pieter points to the tulips, then to the customer, I think there may have a been a wink and perhaps a nod. It seems the bartender has explained the arrangement. Our last bunches of tulips disappear and miraculously our wine glasses stay full.
Evening turns into night, it has been a long day, and all the glasses are empty. The bartender asks,
"One more round?"
I venture the question,
"Do we have any tulip credits left?"
She smiles as she nods,
"one more round it is."