January 15, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 3

Vendor of the Week

Vendor Profile - Ron Hammond

By Mike Wold , Contributing Writer

Ron Hammond is one of two vendors who sells at the PCC in Seward Park. Ron starts selling after 2 p.m.

Photo by: Jon Williams , Arts Editor

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Ron Hammond figures he’s lucky to be alive. Four years ago he was diagnosed with bladder cancer — the result of a lifelong addiction to cigarettes. He’d never heard that smoking could result in bladder cancer.  “The smoke goes in your lungs, the carcinogens go into your bloodstream, which goes into your urine, which sits in your bladder.”

Ron didn’t have money for an operation to remove the tumor. And if the cancer had spread out of the bladder, there was nothing they could do except sew him up and give him chemo — and in that case he wasn’t likely to survive.

“I was in the hospital for 10 days, private room for seven days, intensive care for two days, for seven hours a team of surgeons doing the actual operation. It must have cost a lot.  Somewhere along the line somebody made a decision that they were going to give me health care. Somebody said, ‘OK.’”

Ron survived, with a bladder made from a piece of small intestine, but he could no longer be a “hotshot” air freight courier, delivering urgent packages by truck all over the Northwest.  That’s part of the reason he’s selling Real Change.

“I wanted to keep busy. It turned into acquaintances and then customers and friends. It’s about interactions. In Burien, where I started, I still like to go and sell a little just to see people I haven’t seen. I was going to fetch a cart for this lady and her 5-year-old son followed me halfway to the cart rack. The little boy said, ‘Oh, you’re so nice, Merry Christmas to you!’ It was marvelous.  Much better than fighting traffic and cursing at bad drivers.” 

Still, he treats selling Real Change like a job. “I don’t like to miss days. It’s very important to show up, whether I feel good about being there. If they’re looking for the paper, and you’re not there, something’s lost. During that bad weather that we had [when] it was real cold, the Lord gave me the strength to be there eight, nine hours a day, every day. I couldn’t tell you how many times people that ordinarily might not even buy a paper, they saw me out there and said, ‘If you’re going to be out here, I’m buying a paper.’”

Ron does small things to make the world a better place.  “At the Starbucks in Burien, they have hedges around the drive-through. Every time I go out there I trim them. Something that people don’t see, but they see it in their subconscious and they feel good about it. It’s kind of a blessing that you hand to somebody.”

He also tries to warn kids when he sees them smoking. “You know that Queen Elizabeth took the throne in her mid-20s. Her father, the King of England, died from lung cancer. He smoked [the equivalent of] three packs a day. You think you have more pull than the King of England? Come on!”

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