How do I know it’s spring in NYC? Well, the pollen, the tulips and the leafing trees are a dead giveaway, but mostly I know it’s spring because the fruit vendor across the street is back again.
This fruit vendor disappears around the end or middle of November when the weather starts to get really cold. Their prices are good. The fruit is usually quite fresh and tasty. Most mornings they are set up by at least 8:00. They catch the workers heading to the bus stops, and the occasional parent shuttling kids off to school. Throughout the remainder of the day the fruit vendor’s customers are gleaned from the sidewalk traffic. Joggers stop to purchase a banana, mothers strolling with toddlers take a few minutes to let the little one decide which fruit they want to munch before taking their afternoon nap.Being a sidewalk fruit vendor means that the business must be set up every morning and then taken down again in the evening. It’s an arduous task that I observe every day, and every day it is the same. The products are carried from the truck to the sidewalk. Then the cart is offloaded by the husband and wife team. The fruit is arranged on the cart with everything having its designated location. Plastic containers of berries, the most perishable of the fruit, are stacked in the front. Bananas are placed on the side of the cart with apples, oranges and mangoes arranged in almost the same place every day.
On another corner, across the street from the fruit stand, is a hotdog vendor. She is a one woman operation and her stand is pretty much set up year-round. Even in the freezing temperatures of winter she pulls her wagon out onto the street from a truck, turns on the propane stove to heat the hotdogs and she’s ready fro business. Her cart is divided with hot and refrigeration. She has cold drinks, chips and a few of the local kid’s favorite candies.
Some days it appears as though she is hosting a gathering. One of the women who regularly collects cans and bottles in the neighborhood, frequently stops by to have a bite to eat and to pass the time with the hotdog lady. Many times during the day a small lunch or an early dinner crowd will gather for a snack and to chit-chat. Taxi cab drivers stop for a quick meal on the run, and when the schools let out at 3:00 lots of people hang around the hotdog lady drinking a soda and eating a hotdog with mustard.
Though there is usually no socializing at the fruit stand, the owner is a very sweet, friendly woman. She keeps her stand very orderly and is constantly fiddling with the arrangements of her goods. One of her main concerns is keeping the direct sun from hitting the fruit.
Then there are those summer days when the weather is totally unpredictable, when the rain, the wind and the torrents of rushing water forces vendors to take cover. The fruit vendor’s truck is usually parked nearby, though not always this close, but is a good place to duck-in-out of the really nasty weather.
The hotdog lady is always prepared for bad weather. If the wind is really strong she pushes her hotdog stand next to the corner building. Though if it’s simply raining, she attaches a plastic tarp to her umbrella and carries on with business as usual. Even in a downpour a taxi will stop for a quick snack. She gladly accommodates her customers and sometimes there will be two, perhaps three of her regulars huddled with her under the tarp.
In the morning before the hotdog lady has unloaded her stand, the early morning summer sun shines along the quiet street, casting a lovely warm light along the sidewalk. It’s a peaceful scene, a scene that beckons a street vendor, a hungry passerby, a lonely member of our society, come sit for a while, this is our village, tell me how is your day.