another view of Wall Street

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Sat Apr 22 13:40:41 PDT 2000

The New Yorker - April 24-May 1, 2000 [The Money Issue]

DAY JOB Street vender.

I work a coffee-and-doughnut pushcart in lower Manhattan. The day for me starts at 5 A.m. That's when I meet the truck that comes to unload the cart on the street. Usually, the gas is already lit and the water is heating up. I can start making the coffee as soon as the truck leaves. Then, later, another little truck comes around with boxes of pastry.

The first customers start trickling in at six. From seven until eleven, it's a big flood of people. I go through about ten or twelve pounds of coffee in a morning. After that slows down, I clean up and then usually sit down on the milk crate. Maybe look at the paper. After the lunch hour people come again, although not like the morning, and then I start closing everything down. About two-thirty or so, the truck comes back and loads up the cart.

Having to deal with the public, it's pretty much constant working. But it's an O.K. living. I would be lucky if I owned my own cart, but the cart licenses are expensive. And it's really hard work. You're out there in the freeze of the winter and the heat of the summer. It's also pretty unsafe doing this. Sometimes you get held up early in the morning. I protected myself with a pot of boiling water one time. A guy showed me something sticking up out of his pocket-it might have been a pipe, I don't know. I had fifteen dollars in my money bag. I wasn't about to give it to this guy. I picked up the bucket of water and heaved it at him. It was wintertime and he had a big army coat on, but he leaped back and took off.

The worst thing is the customers, almost all of whom are appallingly hateful, horrible people. I mostly work Wall Street, and the worst class of people are in the tan raincoats and business suits. The stockbrokers and people who work in the offices are just horrendous.

And they're all very particular about their coffee. You gotta put your little cream in, your sugar, however you make it just so. It makes it a drag to be selling coffee. They stick their heads right into the cart and tell you what to do. I'm always feeling like I want to punch their head back out again. I've gotten to where I can't stand people, especially the yuppies and the businesspeople. I really loathe them, so much so that I can't watch TV, because the male newscasters look just like the customers. You know? They have that haircut. Just the sound, the click and scrape of a briefcase being put down when they go to get their stupid, fat wallet out, makes me cringe. And they make this ugly gesture, reaching in between their legs where their coat is buttoned to pull back their coat and get their wallet, usually out of their front pocket. The women are just as bad, wearing their stupid running shoes with their little female business suits. They are just hateful.

-Interviewed by Dana Rouse

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list