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Quarter Guy
As a child, I recall being with my father when he was approached by a homeless gentleman, asking for spare change. I remember my dad saying to me afterwards, "Yeah, but let's say he gets twenty-five cents every 5 minutes, times 12, times an 8 hour day... well, he's makin' out pretty damn good, I'm thinkin'!"
Later, I figured that out to be $24.

























This is the story of Quarter Guy.

For at least 20 years to get pants (as far back as Bob Crawford can recall) there's been a guy in New York City asking everybody for a quarter. With a deadpan mumble and an open palm, "Quarter Guy" has taken a theory and turned it into a full time job... No, a way of life. Perhaps even some absolute conquest of the quarter itself.

For someone so utterly obsessed with change (quarters), it's ironic how completely free of change (to alter, revise, transform) Quarter Guy has been. A die-hard fan of the Canadian tuxedo, Quarter Guy has sported the same frosted knots, blue VH1 fan pin, and catch phrase: "Gotta quarter?" for as long as anyone can remember.

I first became aware of Quarter Guy back in the summer of 2003 at Union Square (before I'd even met Bob C). I was asked of a quarter by him, then upon my refusal, he asked the person next to me, then next to her, and so on, and so on. Then, as Quarter Guy exited Union Square, a barrage of cat calls came from the crowd (but mainly Skater Bob) "Hey! Gotta Quarter?! Hey Quarter Guy! Gotta Quarter?!"


Photograph by Bob Crawford
I even watched once as this taunting sent Quarter Guy into a manic fit of Kung Fu kicks, while shouting: "You can't take my shadow away!" -The only other words I've ever heard spoken by Quarter Guy.

The general consensus is, most people hate Quarter Guy. They hate his style, his attitude, his approach and just him in general. Bob C. and I love him. His obsession has become our obsession, and our obsession has morphed into capturing the ultimate photo of Quarter Guy. You see, Quarter Guy poses for no one. Some even claim that he is unphotographable! For the longest time Bob C. and I found this to be true. Again and again Quarter guy would foil our attempts, twisting, turning and dodging out of the cross hairs while he blocked our shots with his hands.

We soon learned the flaw in our game. We weren't playing by Quarter Guy's rules. So Bob C. and I upped the anti, waiting for him to actually approach us for his quarter and responding with "Yeah, I gotta quarter". We'd then rummage through our bags. But instead of producing a coin, we produced a camera and snapped it in his face. But even at point blank Quarter Guy proved to be quicker. His technique was almost poetic; ducking and spinning while his hand flailed at the camera, like a discount ballet to the beat of snapping camera shutters.

So we raised the stakes again, following him out into the streets, chasing him through crowds and traffic. But his hand blocked our every shot, much like how Superman could catch bullets with great ease.

To maintain our spirits we had to lay claim to the small victories, one being that we had Quarter Guy asking for quarters with his hands up at the sides of his face, shielding it from unwanted snap shots by nosey assholes.

 

Monday, January 26th, 2004
Coming out of Tower Records on Broadway, Bob C. and I stepped out onto the sidewalk and began walking north. Bob whispered to me, panicked: "Getcha camera! Getcha camera! Getcha camera!"
I had no idea what he was so excited about. I looked over my shoulder, and saw nothing of any interest. Bob continued his delirious whimper. I knew there was only one thing that would cause Bob to behave in such a way. And in the same moment that the name passed through my mind I saw to my left, we were side by side, walking with Quarter Guy.

"When I count to 3, start taking pictures." Bob instructed.
Walking north towards 6th Street we nonchalantly worked ourselves onto either side of Quarter Guy, each of us with a camera in hand. Then Bob quietly counted, "1... 2... 3." .

At that moment, what followed was what I now refer to as "QUARTER GUY STROBE ATTACK 2004." The quiet, selfish world of Quarter Guy was besieged in an array of paparazzi flash bulbs that'd put Princess Di's attackers to shame. We danced a silent waltz around Quarter Guy, like flies on a gazelle's ass. We hovered, then land a shot, hover, land a shot. And our attack matured quickly as we began posing in shots with him, and switching cameras between us. He strutted sternly forward, hopelessly trying to block cameras at every angle. The battle was surreal. The people around us seized their conversations trying to figure out what was happening. Bob and I hardly spoke at all either, each of us knowing this was the battle of the century. And the Quarter Guy played his defense without one mention of the quarter he wanted.

Our fight went to the bitter end when the batteries on my camera died and Quarter Guy ducked into Kinkos. Our celebration could be heard from the highest buildings in lower Manhattan.


Normal Bob trying to hand this article to Quarter Guy

Bob and I spent the next several hours reminiscing our war story and gloating in our victory over tea at Starbucks.

But the war is not over. No, my friend. It has only just begun. And this war will be referred to from this day forward as "QUARTER GUY TORMENTING 2004 SHOCK AND AWE!".

 

Written by Normal Bob Smith
Photographs by Bob Crawford & Normal Bob Smith

 

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Insults written strangely are describing strangers I have to see every single day and I don't want them to be sure what it means either.
NORMAL BOB SMITH DESIGN NEW YORK


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