Sunday, October 2, 2005

Peanuts... Cracker Jacks, Here!


One of the things that I have noticed about New York which is very different than Southern California is the number of people legally and illegally soliciting on the streets. Now, I don’t mean like homeless people who are asking for change, though there is a lot of that too. I am talking about people who set up tables and actively sell brand name knock offs or pirated DVDs & CDs. Not only is that amazing to me, but the age range of the folks is what really surprises me. I mean, people who are in their 60s and 70s, who should be basking the in the joy of retired life, are out on street corners peddling knock off purses, sunglasses and keychains. Or, they are going into restaurants, cafes, or subway cars trying to get you to buy what they are selling. Even further, almost every street corner will have someone standing with a stack of flyers, trying to get you to patronize their establishment. They stand at the entrance to the subway stairwell to catch commuters when they are traveling. And these people are all well into their middle age, if not older (it's hard to tell, and I try not to stare).

This morning while at a Greek diner, a woman in her 50s came in with a yellow plastic bag, and went to the table next to us and pulled out a stack of DVDs which were in plastics sleeves. I could see that they are copies of movies that are currently in the theatres, so they could not possibly be out on DVD yet. The person behind the counter thought that this person wanted a table, so when the DVD lady was approached by the employee, she acted very nervous, immediately putting the DVDs back into her back and fleeing the restaurant. I sat fascinated by this transaction. This type of soliciting is similar to what I have seen in downtown San Diego, except in San Diego, it is someone with a bucket of flowers, and they approach couples and try to force the man to buy a flower for the lady. Many a man has gotten in trouble with his woman when he has said no...

Another thing that fascinates me is the varied ethnicity of the people doing these tasks. This is where you may think I have gone too far in my musings, but I am merely expressing observations and am certainly not casting any type of judgement. Southern CA is fairly homogenized, but it seems that there is a class system with regard to this type of work. The homeless people you see are caucasian or African American. The people selling flowers are Mexican. And the people who are on street corners handing out flyers or spinning advertisement signs are skinny, 16 year old caucasian boys who are impervious to sunburns. That’s it, end of story. But in New York, anything goes! The lady who came into our restaurant today was Asian, and there was a Native American man well into his 70s on the street corner handing out coupons for a fitness club that had just opened up down the road.

I gotta say, I am fascinated.

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