“I Just Wanted To Buy My Paper”

I stopped at the K street entrance to buy Street Sense from the vendor. He asked me to step slightly around the corner so he could show me his newly acquired high school diploma.I work with the homeless and downtown poor at my church, Church of the Epiphany, by preparing breakfast for the homeless. From this experience, I feel a strong sense of good will when I see people taking care of themselves and not letting homelessness beat out their sense of self. So, I earnestly shook this vendor’s hand, congratulating him. After buying the paper, he asked me out for date. I responded, “Not funny.” “Why?” he said. I sputtered a bit. “Because I’m married.” (True.) “Oh,” he said. I really wish I had been quick on my feet to say, “Because I wanted to buy a paper, not get hit on.” I think it’s too easy to respond to harassers  on a personal insult level instead of please treat me like a person.

This story brought out some interesting conversation within myself. I doubted myself. This man is homeless. I’m working on K Street. I have so much more privilege than him. I should ignore his comment. No wait this made me uncomfortable. Am I uncomfortable because he’s homeless?

And once I got to that last question, I could answer, “No, I’m uncomfortable because I was hit on and I just wanted to buy my paper and shoot the crap a bit.” Chatting with a stranger doesn’t have include or justify getting hit on!

Submitted by Ryan on 7/4/2010

Location: K Street

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4 Responses

  1. Golden Silence

    Is this the same guy that was reported in another story? If so, Street Sense needs to be contacted so their street vendors know it’s not right to harass women.

  2. guy

    please contact street sense about it. no one wants to buy a paper from them if they have people doing that.

  3. Abby

    Thank you for sharing your concerns. We are following up immediately and will take appropriate action. Please know that this behavior is not condoned by or representative of the larger Street Sense community. Also note, we have a new professional coming on board Monday, and a key responsibility will be to review and relaunch an updated training program to provide vendors with the skills and tools they need to sell the paper effectively and appropriately. If you have any further input, don’t hesitate to be in touch with us at info@streetsense.org.

  4. Ryan

    Thanks for the feedback, Abby. You’re right, it’s not representative of the interactions with all vendors. This is the first unpleasant experience I’ve had, and it hasn’t stopped me from buying papers.

    I don’t buy regularly from the same vendor, but if I did, I think I would have been able to have a more earnest confrontation.