Friday, June 23, 2006

Extra, extra

“Help out Children’s Memorial, folks! Get your Special Edition of the Sun-Times for just a buck!”

That was me yesterday morning.

Just a few minutes into it and I had my spiel: Make eye contact. Smile big. Shout.

Our team sold all but 10 newspapers in a little less than three hours. We made $220.
The good: “I saw this on the news this morning,” said one lady after making a beeline for me out of the crowd. “Thanks for being out here.”

Chicago Streets & San workers stopped and holding up traffic in their big blue truck, buying papers.

“That hospital saved my grandson,” said a woman with gray hair and the brightest blue eyes. “He’s eight now and doing fine, but he had to have quite a few surgeries to fix his heart.”

A taxi driver stopped at the light, waving me over to the middle lane of traffic to give me a smile and a dollar.

“Here,” said another woman, passing a crinkled up $10. “I don’t need any change. My grandchild is alive today. An amazing place, that hospital.”
The Loop is quite different in the early, early morning. Just like being backstage before a play.

Remember that homeless vet who sits on the crates by the Madison Street Bridge? Turns out he’s pretty good at that whole ‘weak and forlorn, help me’ gig.

I caught him looking spry and energetic, fairly sprinting up Wacker Drive to Madison with his crates.
The bad: People purposely cutting the corner to avoid me. Classic. I could see them, seeing me in my bright green get-up.

One woman tried to grab a paper out of my hand and when I told her it was “for charity, just a buck” she scowled at me and hurried off.

An ex co-worker of mine: Happy to see me after more than two years until I asked him to help a good cause.
After 7 a.m. the crowds really build until it’s a veritable wall of people coming at you from the two train stations east of the bridge.

I watch them. Each one, a different purpose. A different destination.
“People sure look beaten down, don’t they?” I said to my co-worker Diana. “Looks like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.”
“Yeah,” she replied. “The thing is, I’m pretty sure I look like that when I’m walking to work, too.”
The ugly: A Loop Suit looked me straight in the eye, walked over to the Sun-Times box ten feet away and bought a paper.

I guess it wouldn’t have been particularly charitable had I whacked him over the head with my Special Edition Sun-Times.

But it would’ve felt so good.
A few lessons from yesterday:

1) Standing on a street corner selling anything is not easy. I have a new appreciation for my comfy, cushy office job.

2) 98% of commuters do not want to be bothered in the morning. They are a crabby, selfish bunch that wouldn’t crack a smile if you handed ‘em a million bucks.

3) I am one of them.
I am listening to: The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Re-engaged