Every morning on my way to work, I pass by this man who sells the San Jose Mercury News right on the side of the street before I get on I280. There has always been a newspaper vendor there but somehow, this guy has caught my attention right from the start.
Before I go on let me say something about myself. I don't know why but I easily get affected with people who are alone, or who have menial, but honorable jobs. I hate seeing people engaging in social things alone, whether eating, shopping, seeing a movie, etc. I feel sorry for them, even though they may be the happiest person on earth. As for those who work menial jobs, it's not that I feel sorry for them but I feel so proud that they chose their line of work instead of beg or steal. They could be a rich dot-comer who's just in-between jobs but actually has a bigger house than I do, but it doesn't matter. I can't help but feel like I have to help the busboy clean up or buy something I don't need from the street vendor.
Which leads me back to the paper guy. Before he came along, there was this big African-American guy selling the newspaper at the same spot. More out of pity than a need to catch up with current events, I bought a paper from this guy, handing him a $5 bill. Although I fully intended to give the whole $5 for a 35-cent paper, I was appalled when he pocketed the money, flashed me a wide smile, said "Thank you" and then willed for the green light to come on so he could get rid of me. He robbed me of the chance to be able to say "Keep the change" and feel good about myself for the rest of the day. This totally turned me off and I never bought from him again. I suspect that other customers have had the same experience because this vendor was gone soon after.
Fast forward to the current guy. I think what caught my attention was seeing him in a Kansas City jacket one chilly morning. I have a deep affinity with Kansas City, having lived there for about a year back in the early '90s. Even then, I ignored this vendor for several weeks, having been burned by the previous one. As the days rolled on I was impressed with his work ethic, running from car to car to peddle his paper and being there every single day (the previous vendor wasn't). So one day I decided to buy a paper from him. I gave him a dollar. He hurriedly shuffles in the oversized pocket of his vendor vest for my change. I told him to not worry about it and drove off. I felt good that day.
Of course from then on he would approach me daily to try to sell me paper. I like the way he does this discreetly, just looking at me hopefully from afar and moving on to the next car when I don't look his way. He does not get in my face or awkwardly waits next to my car whenever I'm stopped at the light. I don't read the papers, so I only buy from him once or twice a week. Once in a while I'll give him a $5 bill. I'm thinking that's a better use of money that my fattening chai creme frappucino from Starbucks. Many times I've been tempted to ask him about Kansas City, but everytime I stop myself, afraid that may be being overfriendly. I'm content with our vendor - vendee relationship, and I also don't want to be misconstrued, which happens quite a bit.
Do you have a stranger you have this strange, non-relationship relationship with?