Sunday, June 11, 2006

Read All About It

I walk the half-mile to the entrance to the development to buy the Sunday St. Petersburg Times. About 20 yards before I get to the vending machine I see that it's empty. I walk the half-mile back home then get in my car and drive to a nearby intersection where live people hawking both the Times and the Tampa Tribune stand in the median.

I prefer the Times. Not only do I think it's a better paper, it costs half the price of the Trib. Fifty-cents for the Sunday edition is worth it for the three crossword puzzles alone.

As I get to the intersection, the light has just turned red so I don't have to disrupt traffic to make my transaction. Good. I'm sure crack buyers feel the same relief except they're not making their drive-by purchases at 8:30 a.m. on a sunlit suburban street. I see the papers stacked up but I don't see the vendors. Finally, I see the Times' guy lying down on his back with his eyes closed. I stop next to him, roll down my window and say, "hey."

Nothing. Not a wink or a nudge. I call to him again, louder this time. Still nothing. I honk the horn. This doesn't rouse him. Perhaps he is sleeping off last night's crack binge. Then I spy the guy from the Trib running across the street, probably returning from a bathroom break at the Hess station. But I don't want a Tribune. He comes up to me and asks, "Did you want a Times?"

He hands me one as I pass him the two quarters. "He's been passed out all morning." It was good of him to cover for his counterpart from the rival paper. Maybe they help each other like that. It looks like a tough job, standing in the median holding copies of the Sunday paper in the air then dashing between lanes of traffic to make a sale all day.

I still laugh as the light changes and I make the U-turn to go back home.

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