Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ghosts of Vendors Past

I have been working at the Dome for 20 years. You would think that would put me near the top of the seniority list.

Not So.

After all this time, I am #26 in seniority. There are 25 guys who have worked more events than I have. Jake is #24 and he reminds me of this statistic on a weekly basis (April 3, 1982).

I have moved up 10 spots in the past 6 years, but it has not been easy…

I have passed 6 vendors on the seniority list in the traditional way… by working more events. The other 4 were by termination, retirement and death.

Jack and Bergie were fired for serving minors in a sting operation organized by the Minneapolis Police Department. It was a shame, but as a beer vendor, we have to be careful everyday. Each sale could be your last if not diligent about carding.

Ray retired after a “fantastic” career. I use the word fantastic, because Ray always did. Anytime I would walk past him and ask, “How ya doin today Ray?”. His response was always the same… “Fantastic!”

Great Man – Great Attitude.

Ray retired after years of vending to spend more time with his grandkids in his later years. After dedicating over 30 years of his life to vending, he hung up his sneakers in a very honorable way. It was unfortunate that Ray “Your Vendor” passed away less than 6 months after retiring. Ray was one of the best!

I remember the organist playing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” as the recessional “hymn” at Ray’s funeral. It was very moving.

Tom was a very good friend, a great salesman, and a great talker. He had worked at the Dome since the day it opened in 1982. My locker was between his and Tim’s for the first 10 years of my vending career. Tom and Tim always seemed to rag on me for being the new kid on the vending block (even after 10 years).

Tom always had something to say (kind of like me, I suppose). His laugh was more of a chortle than a laugh, and it was fun as a “youngster” to get him get him rolling.

He could argue almost any point, and could hurl insults as fast as anyone. It was immature locker room banter, and he was a ringleader at 50+ years old.

One special thing about Tom is that he always had the ladies juice to put on before a game. (He didn’t call it “ladies juice”, but I am going to keep this blog PG.)

The juice… was Brut, by Faberge.

Now vendors sweat A LOT!!! (Some more than others). We need something to keep the stink off of us for 3 hours as we climb stairs. Tom supplied the antidote. It was not unusual for a half dozen vendors to gather around Tom’s locker for a splash of “The Juice” before a game. He of course, called us freeloaders or moochers, but always had Brut to spare.

We held out our hands like Oliver Twist waiting for a bowl of porridge and he would always oblige with a couple of squirts of the sweet smelling cologne.

Tom died suddenly one night in 2003 of a massive heart attack.
He died in the 7th inning of a home game.
He died while vending

He stopped back at the vending room to put his beer tray down so he could take a break. He said he wasn’t feeling very good and wanted to go to the bathroom and splash some water on his face.

He never made it to the bathroom. About halfway there, his heart stopped and he was gone.

It was a shock to everyone.

Every vendor knows that climbing all those stairs is hard work… but it shouldn’t be deadly. Unfortunately it was for Tom.

They held a moment of silence for Tom before the next game prior to the National Anthem. I stood at the bottom of the aisle in section 132-133 next to another peanut vendor as we removed our caps for our friend. It was a wonderful gesture on the part of the Minnesota Twins.

I looked around during the anthem and saw vendors at the bottom of every section standing to honor Tom. What a neat memorial for a beer vendor.

I miss Tom even today. It is a shame he will not be here to work the final Twins games at the Metrodome. He was a crusty old man with a fowl mouth, but he epitomized the essence of a beer vendor. He knew how to put on a great show for the customers.

I do still put on juice before every Twins game. My 9 year old daughter makes fun of me occasionally when I come home from the Dome and smell like cologne. Sydney calls it “Stinky Stuff”. Probably a more appropriate name than what Tom called it.

Rest in Peace Tom.

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