Bad day on Telegraph Ave

Today, a tale of vendor politics, land squabbles, cowardice, character, and cops, and it's all so ridiculous it makes Congress seem sane.

As is my routine, I arrived on Telegraph Avenue at about 11:45, by which time most of the other vendors were already open for business. It took a few minutes to find the sign-in sheets, pick an unclaimed spot, and wheel my cart there, but — my spot was occupied.

This has happened before, because some vendors ignore the rules. Usually I'd politely ask the trespasser to vamoose, but today the guy in my space was Yacoob. The space had been empty when he got there, so he'd moved in, but an hour later that's the space I'd claimed, without knowing he was in it.

Yacoob might be the only vendor I actually like. He's always been great to me, even shares his lunch. He gave Sarah-Katherine free earrings. When I couldn't find the vendor with the sign-in sheets, Yacoob has (twice!) told me (from his photographic memory!) which stalls were unclaimed that day. A few weeks back, when he saw me going to my signed-in space, he pointed me toward an empty space in a better location, where, although someone else had signed for it, Yacoob knew the details of some complicated swap between vendors, and knew nobody else was actually going to set up there. My day in that spot, incidentally, was the best-selling day in sacrilegious fish history.

So I wasn't going to even try evicting my pal Yacoob. No sir. I owed him one (or more).

His problem was, he has an 8-foot table, but he'd gotten the last draw in the lottery this morning, and there were no 8-foot stalls remaining. He'd signed up for a 4-foot space next to an unclaimed 4-foot space, and hoped he could get away with it, since this was a low-volume stretch of Telegraph. Of course, each vendor is only allowed to claim one spot, so what Yacoob did was illegal.

And that empty space next to Yacoob, the space he'd expanded into? It turned out to be mine.

What the heck, though. I yielded, and set up the fish stand on Yacoob's other side, in a space that had been signed for by someone else, but was still vacant.

It was a sunny day, though, business was brisk, so I was sure that whoever'd signed for that spot would show up and claim it. Between selling fish, I also prowled the Ave, hoping to find another decent spot.

It was almost 1:00 when I got booted, by the same vendor who'd been such a jerk yesterday, the "You're an Inch into my space" idiot. There was nothing I could do, though. It was his spot, not mine, them's the rules, so I packed my cart sooner than possible, and resettled into a corner spot I'd scouted, a block away.

Corners are usually good for business, but this corner spot was empty for a reason. It was right in front of a building that's being remodeled, with plywood on the windows and hard-hatted men walking in and out and carrying lumber. I expected so-so sales at best, and didn't even notice that my new spot was right beside a police telephone box. 

Well, pretty soon a cop on a bicycle rolled up, stopped almost directly in front of my table, unlocked the police box, and started talking to Headquarters. He could've stood to the side, taking up just one man's worth of space, but it was easier for him to sit on his bike and take two men's worth of space. In doing so, he almost completely blocked anyone from getting to, or even seeing, my table full of fish.

Me being patient and cowardly, I waited for him to finish his call, which lasted several minutes and sounded personal (lotsa laughter). Then he hung up the phone, re-locked the box, got back on his bike… and stayed there, now talking on his two-way radio.

He was still sitting on his bike, still blocking my table, and even when he finished the radio call, he remained there, perched on the bike, surveying the crowds on Telegraph. Maybe he was looking for a bad guy, I dunno. Being police, more likely he was waiting to receive his weekly bribe.

I'm never eager to talk to a cop, but finally I had to say, "Excuse me, officer, but could you please step aside? You're blocking my table."

He looked at me like I was made of solid shit, and then he slowly, stupidly looked at the fish on my table, and especially the booklets, What Lesbians Do. He made a face like he was ready to puke, stared at me, and finally said, "I don't know where people like you get off." 

Then he ignored me again, but remained on his bicycle in front of my table. I waited a while, probably too long, because of my aforementioned cowardice. He couldn't stay sitting on his bike all afternoon, could he?

Yeah, he sure could, so eventually I asked again, even more meekly. The cop answered, "I'm not moving, not for you."

By then it was fairly late in the day, and a few vendors were closing up for the day, so other spaces were available. That oinker had been sitting on his bike, blocking my table for twenty minutes, and his tires were gonna sprout roots before he moved, so I started schlepping my stuff to a freshly-emptied stall nearby. When I was about half-resettled, the policeman pedaled away.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Something my daddy taught me is, after a bad day, take time to reflect, and see if there's anything you could've done different to avoid the problem. So as I walked home sweaty and frustrated, I thought it all over, and… regrets? I've got a few.

I don't regret giving my spot to Yacoob, but I do regret trying to talk to a cop, and I sorta regret typing it up, because it's all so very dull I'm sure you'll regret reading it. Mostly I regret getting out of bed this morning. It would've been a good day to call in sick.

And yet, the worst day selling fish is still twice as nice as the best day working at Macy's.

From Pathetic Life #15
Friday, August 25, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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