Vendor of the Week
Vendor Profile - Brenda Williams
Brenda Williams had never been to Seattle. But she wanted to live in a place where it rained. Told that it rains a lot, she said, “That’s not going to get me down.”
A bartender in Las Vegas, Brenda was working from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. when a woman came in, nursed a single drink for an hour and left a $200 tip. “That’s probably the best [night] I ever had. I wound up making a thousand dollars. I walked up to my boss and said, ‘I’m giving you two weeks’ notice.’”
Brenda grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley. She was a cheerleader all through high school. “I’ve always been an outgoing personality.” So she had no trouble finding a job at Macy’s when she arrived in Seattle. She didn’t like the job. “Macy’s is different. It’s more people with money.” She got laid off, her unemployment ran out, and she became homeless.
A friend told Brenda she had the right attitude and personality to sell Real Change. “I just stuck with it. It helped me get through the years of homelessness.”
Of her customers, she says, “There are certain people I like because they’re good people. They’re human beings. There’s some that I really adore, that I share issues with, that are mentors.”
Selling, she says, is three times as challenging as working at Macy’s or being a bartender. “The big challenge is drawing people to you, not just interacting. [It] has to do with how you perceive things in life.”
On a cold day, people don’t buy as readily. “I feel like a Chihuahua standing out here, shivering like a little dog. You know those cute little Chihuahuas: That’s what I feel like. But I can still smile and talk.”
There’s a darker side to being a vendor. “You gotta be careful on the street. People like to start trouble and say things. I ignore them. Then they leave me alone.
I don’t take anything personal. If I did, I’d be a basket case when I went home. And I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve.”
Brenda’s lives in a motel right now, but she’s getting ready to move to a room in a house. “It’s nice to have a home. I’ll be paying a lot of rent, but it’s worth it. It’s about an hour and 15 minutes [by bus]. I can sit back and think things through and get my mind ready for the day.”
And Brenda always has something to read, too — “all different kind of stories, romance, horror, true crime, fantasy, mysteries, sci-fi.” Her favorite author, though, is Patricia Cornwell, who writes mysteries featuring a woman who’s a forensic scientist. Brenda wouldn’t have wanted to be a forensic scientist herself. “Too much heavy stuff.” With a mystery, she can always put her Kindle down when she wants to in the evening. “Then I just relax and go to sleep.”
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