Personal Space 

Life with hot dogs

click to enlarge ROBERT ALFORD
  • Robert Alford

Ahhh Spring: shirtsleeves, baseball and the titillating smell of franks on an open grill.

Not quite.

Craig Hicks is a sidewalk hot dog vendor at the downtown bus station. It's actually a year-round job, weather permitting. On a good week, he's there six days, from about 10 a.m. 'til cart breakdown between 4 and 5.

On one recent wintry day, Hicks is dressed in blue jeans, a short blue jacket, sensible brown shoes, and a blue baseball cap advertising electrical supplies. He's standing in front of a large glass window, monitoring the sidewalk from the station's heated waiting area, and he's reading the Independent.

The change belt gave him away.

I introduce myself and we get to chatting. He's easy to talk to, like a neighborhood chum. I ask him what he likes best about his job; he tells me working outdoors ... and the people you meet.

"I call this the zoo," he says. "Anything you can see at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, you can see here." He describes the drinkers, the mentally challenged, the con artists and the shortchangers.

"Ever call the cops?" I ask.

"On occasion," he smiles.

"Weirdest thing that's happened?"

"Car pulls up to the curb, and a girl flashes me," he says, demonstrating on his chest.

I ask him about pay. The dog cart isn't his.

It's per day, plus tips, and a bonus based on sales, which he hasn't hit in a long time. He says he wishes he made more -- rent, utilities and economy being what they are. He doesn't have a car or a phone, he rides the bus, he has six years seniority, and he receives no benefits.

"Any meal deals, like McDonalds?" I ask.

There aren't. It's strictly an a la carte cart.

"Do you vote?"

"Nope, I don't believe the politicians are my friend."

"Like baseball?"

He thinks hard, then tells me he follows the Detroit Tigers some. It's where he's from.

"Ahhh," I say.

-- By Malcolm Allyn

Photo by Robert Alford


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