More than just flowers fill that familiar booth that once sat on the corner of York and Broadway.
Outside the post office is a street vendor who also happens to be a marathon runner, author, traveler, armchair philosopher and lover of life.
The “flower guy,” John Lynch, offers Yalies a different perspective on life, Yale and the world that he writes about.
Lynch has been a fixture of the Yale community for over six years, providing Yalies with beautiful flowers and friendly service.
“I like Yale. I’ve grown comfortable here,” Lynch said. “I’d like to stay here.”
To today’s Yalies, the “flower guy” is as much a fixture of Yale as the Doodle.
“Here you go, John,” said a hurried Yalie who gave Lynch some dollars in passing. He bought flowers the night before and was paying Lynch back.
“Yalies run out the door without their heads,” Lynch said. “You have a romantic who thinks of every detail and forgets his wallet.”
“The funny thing is, I can never remember who owes me money,” Lynch said. “But Yalies don’t realize this, and even if they did, they’d still pay. Yalies are honest.”
Yalies have become accustomed to meeting their “flower guy,” on campus streetcorners. But, Alexander Potter ’01 stumbled upon Lynch while leading a Freshman Outdoor Orientation Trip group on the Appalachian Trail two summers ago.
Lynch was on the Appalachian Trail, gaining experience to write “Time Well Spent,” a book about the Appalachian Trail sub-culture.
“Ideally,” Lynch said, “I [would] work for five months [selling flowers] and spend the rest of the time traveling — writing one travel book each year.”
Lynch has the unique position of being both a spectator of and participant in the Yale community.
“People think that Yale is just a campus full of over-privileged students,” he said. “But it’s not. I love its diversity. Although I have seen some students this year who would put the yuppies to shame.”
But, Lynch remembers a time when Yale was filled with more drunken antics. And, he misses the artsy atmosphere that Yale once was.
“I like to see people performing on the sidewalk,” Lynch said. “Halloween used to be a big night, with kegs in every dining hall.”
Lynch is like a living history of modern Yale. He has seen students approach Old Campus for the first time and walk through that same campus in cap and gown.
“Back in the 80s they used to have an ‘arms race,'” Lynch said. “Students would get dressed up as missiles or bombs and [race down Elm Street.] One would dress like Reagan and start the ‘arms race.'”
“I think the new drinking age has hindered the liberal spirit of Yale,” he said.
Today, many Yalies turn to the flower guy for more than just flowers.
“Can you watch my bike?” another Yalie asks as she runs into the post office.
“I get used in a number of different ways” said Lynch. “People ask me everything from directions to which Indian restaurant is best. I’m an information booth.”
While Yalies are buying flowers to go out at night, Lynch is busy working. There is often a line down the block on “Screw” nights full of young men buying roses for unknown dates.
“I’m sorta like Cinderella,” Lynch confesses. “But I like it here. I hope to be around for years to come.”
Indeed Lynch is like Cinderella. Instead of being able to watch Bill Clinton LAW ’73 speak over the weekend on Cross Campus, Lynch was busy working.
“I met him [during the 1992] primaries,” Lynch said. “I shook his hand and said ‘Give ’em hell, Bill.’ And he grinned his big red face right back at me and said, ‘I will.'”
This past summer, Lynch walked the coastline of Ireland, acquiring information for his second book, “Walk about Ireland,” a collection of anecdotes from his travels.
While abroad, he returned to his roots and visited the Lynch Castle — his family’s former home from generations past. But Lynch prefers rustic to royalty.
“I stayed mostly in abandoned houses,” he said with a smile. “I’d pull the vines out and climb through the window.”
From desolate houses to desolate weather, Lynch faced all kinds of challenges in his travels through Ireland.
“I’d have my walking clothes and my sleep clothes, but with the rain,” Lynch said. “Sometimes I’d have to change into wet shoes to start the day.”
Lynch said he will be “researching” again this summer, scuba diving in Belize. Lynch has traveled all over the world, from Asia to the Middle East.
“I live a Spartan existence,” he said. “I use my money to accumulate experience. Meeting inspiring people [at Yale and abroad] is in itself its own payment.”
Before becoming a flower vendor, Lynch worked as a clerk for the city of Hartford.
“I’d put on the monkey suit, get in the monkey cage,” Lynch said. “The clock strikes 4:30 and I’d go home.”
But now Lynch said he has a more fulfilling life.
“I’m doing what I want to do,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to every year meet a new wave of smiling people — it rubs off on me and inspires me.”