Apr 28, 2008 - 10:49 PM
Three nights out of the week, I work on the corner.
No, no, I do not sell myself; just my dignity.
I work in an outdoor shopping mall where I feel utterly displaced. I am surrounded by Botox shops, herbal tea lounges, boutiques that sell ugly, overpriced old lady clothes, and stores where casual shoes are sold for over $400. And, while passersby stroll across the street to get their wrinkles straightened out, I stand next to my hot dog stand and smile.
That’s right, I sell hot dogs. It’s not the usual run-down hole-in-the-wall type stand, it’s a gourmet experience. And, while I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a hot dog girl, I hate telling people that I work in a plaza where everything looks plastic and superficial; as if it popped out of a picture of Downtown Disney. Most people think it is exciting to work in such a lively and affluent area. But that’s easy to say when they aren’t constantly thrown into the culture.
People that frequent the area like to think that because I steam hot dogs for a “living,” I am a lesser human being. They believe that they can say whatever they want to me because I have a red, paper apron as a uniform and they have finely tailored True Religions. They hold their noses so high that I sometimes think (hope) their post-surgery skin might just slip off and land in the relish. But, regardless of how much they disparage me, I can’t say anything back because I’m just that hot dog girl on the corner.
I feel powerless in my position because customers think I cannot do anything better with my life than sell sausages for a living. Some assume that I’m an idiot and even calculate the total for me. Some look at me like I’m a social reject that must have screwed up. But, little do they understand that this is the price that I have to pay to go to college. I have to work through the ironic dichotomy of my starving-student self and the richest flukes in the city; moreover, survive it to go to work the next day.
I often wonder why and how I am able to sell a piece of myself just to go to school. Moreover, I am surprised by the lengths of which someone, “who doesn’t care about money,” will take to get a thicker pocketbook. Is earning money more important than holding your ground as a person? Is it worth it to sell your self for a pay check? In some ways, no. Others, yes. I guess there isn’t a right answer, but as long as I have tuition to pay, I’ll stay in this quandary where I can’t win either battle.
Vickie Ly is a senior at Santa Clara High School. She is paid $10/hr to sell hot dogs ($2.50 for her dignity).