About four years ago when I was first starting to work at The Contributor, I interviewed Brian W. as one of my first vendor spotlights. Brian would show up to our paper release meetings and sit on the front row with a large beard and a dolly he’d use to carry out his haul of papers for the week. He was a recognizable face in the sea of vendor faces and I wanted to know more about his story.
Four years later, Brian has become a fixture on Post Road and in several spots around Franklin — most recently the Kroger on Mallory lane. He still has the beard, he still hauls quite a few papers during our paper release meeting, and he still lets me ask him questions to put into the paper.
Tell me about your customers.
I’ve been in the same spot for five years — I’ve seen babies grow up to be kids going to school. It is so awesome. That’s the only reason why I like going to my morning spot—because of the kids. And my dogs, oh, gosh. I got a big ol’ lab. And he knows when he’s coming up on my corner. I wear the kids out on asking them if they’ve eaten breakfast and telling them to brush their teeth. And I show them my badge and say “Look real close, you’ll see I don’t got teeth.”
What does it mean to you to pass down wisdom like that? To a younger generation?
It feels good when I see a good outcome, but a lot of people think they know more than the older people. I was the same way — I’m not going to lie. All you can do is show them the right way and hope they do right.
So we’ve tried to educate customers about taking the paper from our vendors. In your own words, why do you think it’s important for customers to take the paper?
Because it keeps The Contributor going and it keeps us going. And my sales pitch is, “Please take the paper, it helps all the way around. It just don’t help me, it helps The Contributor.” When you don’t take it, it hurts me more because I’ve got a goal that I have set. The Contributor isn’t making us do a certain amount. They sell us the paper, and that’s the only money they get from us. If you don’t take the paper, it hurts. And I’m like, it helps me get up on the to sales list if I have to buy more papers. When my customers hear that, they take it.
Do you think it’s more dignifying for you when someone takes the paper? More of a transaction, not just someone handing you money?
I feel better if they take it, yeah. Some of them take two or three from me, they’ll buy two or three at a time. My regulars, they take care of me. If I could remember all the names, I’d put them in there, but I deal with so many people, it’s hard to keep track. I love the kids, I really do. The way the world is nowadays, kids can’t be kids.
Do you think you were able to be a kid when you were a kid?
Yep. Oh, it was great. I got to play with Hot Wheels, play in the snow and not worry about being locked out of my house, knowing my parents were always vigilant on me. They let us be kids. Nowadays, you gotta lock your doors. You gotta be looking over your back anytime you’re in public, and that’s no way to be. We gotta go back to our old ways.
What do you think could get us there?
I’m like everybody else, I don’t know. I really don’t. I mean, I’m stumped on that one. I know one thing, “Love thy neighbor.” Even if they’re your enemy, try to love them. I heard that in church this past Sunday. Show them love, not hatred.
How does that play out in your life?
Not too well. It really don’t. I mean, I get stabbed in the back a lot and it’s making me a harder person, but I’m trying not to be. I’m trying to be like I always am, helping people where I can. But I’ve not been able to do like I want to do because of my health.
What’s going on with your health situation right now?
That’s a touchy one. Still having problems with my kidneys. Stomach problems, teeth, and I think I have high blood pressure. Other than that, I’m holding my own. I’m not able to work like I want—some days, I can only work five hours, and I gotta take a couple of days off. My kidneys are giving me the most problems. Put in there, “Please drink water, so you don’t go through what I go through.”
Is that what it is?
Yeah, not enough water, not taking care of myself, not eating right. I’ve been fighting kidney stones for three years. I haven’t had them for two now. I’m also a skin cancer survivor. In the summer months, I don’t work but four hours in the sun. I try to find a shady spot. I just got health issues, basically. I’m blessed to be able to do what I’m doing. I really am, I tell people that when they buy my paper, I say, “This is a blessing in disguise. If you do right, it’ll do you right.”
Where are you living right now?
I’m in a trailer. Been there for two years now. Prior to that, I was in a house that had no insulations and leaky skylights. I’d have to put buckets out every time it rained. But the trailer’s great. My neighbors are good. I really don’t see me going any further than where I am. As long as I can keep the roof over my head, that’s what I’m looking for.
In my first spotlight, I asked you “What hopes do you have for the future?” and you said “Just have a roof over my head and provide for me and my wife. As long as I can provide, that’s my main goal. That’s all I’m worried about.” Sounds like that’s what’s been going on. Do you have any other hopes for the future now or is it the same?
I just hope I can keep doing like I am. I mean, if something better comes, it’s meant to be, but if not, I’m happy where I’m at. It’s all we can do.