This is the third week that I’ve been taking my grandson to and from a summer day camp. Unlike his school, it’s a little too far to walk, so we’ve been driving, taking streets I’m familiar with, but going through an intersection that I’ve rarely stopped at.
It’s a busy intersection that usually requires sitting through at least two full changes of lights – a likely explanation for the number of vendors that are on the street. The variety of merchandise that they offer is not noticeably different from other intersections. But the vendors are – one in particular.
He dresses in khaki pants and a white shirt that almost appears to be a uniform, and he’s older than most other vendors, probably close to my own age. He sells cellophane bags of potato chips, banana chips and a few candies from a brown wicker basket that he carries between the lines of cars in both hands.
I don’t know why I took notice of him. Other vendors selling bunches of roses or sunflowers or tall stacks of pink cotton candy are more noticeable. But it’s his face that I would recognize.
He’s not there in the morning when I drop my grandson off, but he’s there every afternoon at 1:45 p.m. when we’re heading home – on the same side of the street, with the same basket, neatly organized. He has a bag of replacements that sits next to a tree in the median, along with a sun hat and a jacket.
The routine is the same. He stops at my window and tells me how good the chips are in basic Spanish that I understand. He smiles, even as I shake my head “no,” as if he knows my weakness for potato chips. And, in less than 30 seconds, he moves on. I’ve never seen him sell anything.
I pass vendors every day without much thought. I’m sure there are some that I even see on a regular basis. So I don’t know what it is that has made me wonder about this one man’s story and what brings him out to the street every day. Maybe he wonders what brings me to that same intersection every day too.
Ultimately, I suppose we’re both doing what we need to do.
“Have you met any interesting people in Mexico?” a friend from Illinois asks. I tell her about neighbors, co-workers of my daughter, and friends of my grandson.
And I tell her about a man on the street that I bought some very good potato chips from.