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COMMENTARY BY WILLIAM CARTER: Does banning street vendor sales protect us from reality?

“Bless you…God bless you,” the man says to me as he passes a copy of The Contributor through the window of my truck in exchange for the dollar bill I’d given him.

He’s wearing thick gloves and a heavy jacket and a knit cap with a Titans logo on it covers his head down to his eyebrows and almost to his jaw line because it’s very cold out and a rime of frost blankets the grass in the median the man’s been occupying. He turns his attention to the two cars behind me at the intersection and the dollar bills the drivers are waving at him. He walks along the curb and I hear his blessing repeated to the next driver in line before I close my window to the chill and crank up the heat bit and then take a sip from the still steaming cup of two-dollar coffee I’d bought only a few minutes before.

The traffic light turns green and the man in the knit cap steps back onto the median and almost immediately disappears from my side-view mirror as the fog of exhaust vapor spewing from our vehicles envelopes him and makes me wonder for a moment if he was ever really there at all.

As I drive away, I toss my latest copy of “the homeless newspaper” onto the dashboard along with the seven or eight other unread copies already there. I don’t know why I keep them except maybe to fool myself every once in a while into believing I am a better person than I really am simply for opening my car window to a stranger. Or maybe I keep them to remind me of how lucky I am to have a few spare dollars in my pocket to buy a “God bless you” with if I so choose from a person who may be lost or alone or troubled but has at least, hopefully, found an unconventional way back to a path deemed more “acceptable” to the rest of us who are fortunate enough not to have to stand at an intersection on cold winter mornings selling newspapers.

The man in the knit cap may never bless me again, though, because Our Leaders have decided he is a threat to my safety and that they must save me from him – as well as from the two kids down the street from me in my neighborhood who strong arm me with their cuteness a couple of times every summer into buying lukewarm, too sweet Kool-Aid for $5 a cup – by proposing a ban on all financial transactions that take place on city streets.  This does not bode well for funnel cake and kettle corn vendors at the Main Street Festival and the Shriners will now have to collect their buckets of change for St. Jude’s Children Hospital outside city limits. There is also the issue of what’s to be done now – if the ban is enforced – with the city’s trolley system given it will no longer be able to accept payment for providing transportation, and I can’t imagine the number of signs that will have to be posted warning any other vehicles for hire away from our unfriendly-to-street-transactions town.

The main reason, though, a ban on street transactions is being considered is that one of Our Leaders had “the tar” scared out of her by one of the homeless-newspaper sellers once as she waited at a traffic light. I don’t know about you, but I think anyone who is startled by the sudden appearance of another human being in a country populated by three hundred and something million other human beings is probably too easily distracted – and maybe even a little feeble minded – and surely, as a matter of public safety, doesn’t need to be behind the wheel of a moving vehicle anyway. Besides, clowns – and their obvious threat to National Security as well as their not-so-subtle disregard for personal hygiene – scare the tar out of me and you don’t hear me screaming about how we need to ban their right to practice their weird and strange and more-than-likely devil worshipping clown stuff.

I don’t know what’s really behind the proposal to ban the homeless newspaper vendors, but I suspect it has something to do with a misguided effort by Our Leaders to protect us from the reality of some things that may make us uncomfortable, i.e., that not all things in our perfect little world are as perfect as we’d like them to be.

“God bless you,” the man in the knit cap told me when he took the dollar I chose to give him, and that made me feel good for at least a few minutes during an aimless eight hours searching for purpose.

One buck for a benediction…I’ll take that deal any day.


William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at


Posted on: 12/4/2012


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