A couple of years ago, Nick Maxwell was a vendor intern at the Real Change office, a position that he thought might lead to a paying position with the organization. But in the end, he didn’t apply for the permanent position. He didn’t feel that he was qualified. He still regrets giving that up; he plans to apply for another position if the opportunity arises.
Things have gotten more difficult for Nick since his internship. Partly because he moved to Olympia.
The move made good sense — housing costs in Seattle are climbing and Olympia is more affordable.
But it’s put one more obstacle in Nick’s path, because getting up to Seattle is a couple of hours on the bus each way.
The commute cuts into the time Nick has for selling Real Change. He says that he gets out on the street five or six hours a day, less than when he lived in Seattle. It may seem ironic that a Real Change vendor would commute four hours a day to get to his selling location in downtown Seattle, but it’s no different than the choice a lot of commuters make, caused by the distance between jobs and affordable housing.
Nick doesn’t mind the bus ride. It’s easy to sleep on the bus. He says that the selling locations in Olympia are limited and already spoken for. People in Olympia are friendly, but often they don’t really know where the resources are that a person without money needs.
Interacting with customers is still one of the things Nick loves about being a vendor.
Most of his customers support Real Change and what it’s doing, though some quit buying the paper a couple of months ago when it ran an analysis about the racial disparities in excluding people from the public library. Nick’s selling location is at Fourth Avenue and Madison Street, right next to the downtown branch. Nick tries not to think about politics too much, especially given the current political situation.
Nick has been living in the Pacific Northwest for almost 30 years. He grew up in the South Bronx; his mother, who passed away seven months ago, worked in a hospital for most of his childhood; he never knew who his father was. He came here to help a friend of his get back together with his girlfriend. He liked Seattle and decided to stay.
When he’s not working, Nick mostly listens to music and tries to stay healthy — eating right, taking vitamins and exercising. He doesn’t aim for any particular number of crunches or pushups, just does as many as he can in a session. The music is classic rock — he doesn’t care for more modern stuff. “The stuff today, it’s insane, doesn’t say anything.”
Even if some things haven’t worked out, Nick keeps going.
“I’m 57. I know what I’m doing, so that’s why I come to work every single day.”