If you’ve ever driven anywhere near Humboldt Parkway, chances are that you have come across an affable fellow by the name of Robert. Robert is the guy who sets up shop at highly trafficked intersections, in hopes of selling some of his wares. His wares range from raw shea butter soap to handmade pies.
Earlier today Robert’s sharp get-up attracted my attention, as did his wide array of products. So I got out of my car and walked up and introduced myself. I stood at Robert’s corner, talking with him for about a half hour. In that time, I discovered that he knew every tenth person that passed by name. It was incredible, the number of waves, honks and shouts that he commanded. In that same time, I ran into a couple of people that I knew as well, which apparently impressed Robert, who was wondering if I was some sort of competition moving onto his block (we got a good chuckle out it).
Robert told me that in recent weeks he had been taking a lot of heat from the police, who were always telling him to pick up and vacate. “I always ask them to put it into writing,” he explained. “They tell me that they don’t have it in writing. Then I ask for a business card, so that I can pass it along to my superiors at the Nation of Islam. The Nation and the police can sort all of this out and we can come to a mutually acceptable agreement, I explain to them. They tell me that they don’t carry business cards, which makes it difficult to address the situation. Then they tell me to pack up anyways, so I move on.”
Apparently Robert is not getting a lot of traction with the police these days, which is unfortunate because he’s sort of reached pseudo celebrity status. From what I can see, Robert adds a lot of life and good will to the corners that he stakes out. One car pulled up and the driver asked if he had seen a missing poodle. Robert shook his head and said that he had not seen any dogs that day.
The corner where he was posted today was not as busy as his usual location… he told me that his sales were down about 40%, thanks to being shooed away by the police.
Before I left Robert, I purchased a bottle of cologne for five bucks. I wished him luck, and said that I would be back when I ran out of the fragrant oil.
If you see Robert, give him a wave or a honk, and if you’re lucky you will get a friendly “As-Salaam-Alaikum” in return.