Race through Penn Station today, and you’re likely to find an assortment of insanely expensive wilted roses — and thousands of desperate men willing to pay $45 for a bouquet that normally costs $18.
For Fredo, a flower vendor who has set up shop next to an Auntie Anne’s in the cavernous halls of Penn Station, rush hour on Valentine’s Day is the Black Friday of the flower-selling season.
“People run by to catch their trains. They’re grabbing bouquets, yelling about the prices, throwing me the cash and running,” he said. “These guys gotta get home, and if they don’t bring flowers, they know they’re in trouble.”
What sells out first? “The cheapest things: the single roses, the tulips, the carnations,” he said.
Ron, who looks curiously like a white-haired Ron Jeremy, stopped to buy a single yellow rose. He asks a flower vendor to take the plastic off and wrap it in tissue paper, so it “doesn’t look so cheap.” Who is the lucky lady?
“My bartender. I’m gonna go see her now,” he said, as he went off in search of a card. “I want this card to say something like, ‘I wanted to find something as pretty as you. But I couldn’t, so here’s this flower.'”
Flower vendors in Penn Station said Valentine’s Day is hardly their favorite holiday — even though they stand to bank on it.
“I prefer springtime. The flowers smell better, and people buy them because they’re in love, they’re happy, not because their wife is going to kill them if they don’t,” one vendor, who declined to be identified, said in Spanish.
Fredo said that by 7 or 8 p.m., he expects to be sold out. “Around rush hour is when we make the big sales. Everybody’s desperate.”
And for Fredo’s honey? “I got somethin’ special tucked away.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 14, 2012