photos: Photo by Robin Toma

Vendor Peter Thompson looks to the year ahead

As a new year begins, Peter Thompson looks back on how far he's come.

Get on your megaphone

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It seems like a long time ago—yesteryear—when I got my first Hope in Shadows photo contest camera and received an honourable mention for my picture of my sister’s cat and dog sitting on an armchair. The year was 2007. With Hope in Shadows, I’d found a new beginning. Now, I’m happy in my life. I’m happy at what I’m doing. And I’ve got a steady source of income.

When I was first asked if I wanted to sell Hope in Shadows calendars I was a bit hesitant at first. I’d never sold anything and I didn’t know what people’s reactions would be like. The first task was trying to find a spot to sell. I looked around, bussed here and there searching for my locale. Then, I got to Commercial SkyTrain Station. It looked good. Lots of people all the time, busy and under cover from the rain. I thought I’d try there, not really knowing what to expect. Different thoughts went through my mind, a lot of “what ifs:” what if nobody liked me? What if nobody wanted to buy from me? What if security chased me away?

But the major thing that was playing out in my life at that time was shyness. To that end, I found myself selling out of the way, sitting down. Only the people going or coming to Safeway could see me. I was shy and timid like a fox that sees the meal but doesn’t want to grab it. I tell you, it took a while. After I sold a few, I got bolder.

Like coming out of the shadows, I started to slowly work my way to where everyone could see me. People were coming from the SkyTrain or the buses or from the bank. I got to know people on the Drive. Even the hot dog vendor, and the people giving out 24 Hours and Metro newspapers. I became at ease, interacting with people. It became a breeze.

Then, I started selling Megaphone too. I had not too much luck with that because both 24 Hours and Metro newspapers were being given away. After calendar season that year, I moved to Robson and Howe in 2008. That was another challenge, but I had more confidence with Megaphone in one hand and Hope in Shadows in the other. I started selling. It took a while; people passed me by every day for about a month before stopping and talking and then becoming a regular customer and friend.

I remember this one lady, she was walking around pacing back and forth, looking at me once in a while. I thought maybe she was waiting for someone. But like me back then, she was the timid one, maybe because of the way I looked—long hair, black leather jacket, my ‘stache. But when I smiled at her, she said, “Hi. Can I buy one of those papers from you?” I laughed and said “Yeah sure, I thought you were waiting for someone!” She laughed. “No, I didn’t know how to approach you.” I told her I was like that once—only in wanting to sell the paper.

So Robson and Howe became my hub for selling calendars and papers for many years. People from Commercial Drive still get ahold of me when they want calendars.

Good friends have been made from the lawyer’s offices, the courthouse, the art gallery, TD Bank, all in that neighbourhood. I’ve seen some customers that have retired, some have even married. A lot of changes have been made. Sears closed. Chapters, then Starbucks beside Chapters. I lost a lot of customers, which brought me to the move to Kitsilano. It’s a great place. Out of respect for Danny [a late Megaphone vendor who used to sell in Kitsilano for years, in what’s now my spot], I never really thought I would meet too many people. But I am so glad to have met all of you who have welcomed me into the neighbourhood.

From the time I started selling the calendars and the Megaphone papers, I’ve come a long way. Meeting and talking to people now feels like it’s on a whole new level. It all comes naturally. And this is one of the things I like most about my job.

Thank you for being there. I wish you all a happy and peaceful start to 2016.

Peter sells Megaphone in front of Whole Foods Market on 4th Avenue and Vine Street in Kitsilano.

Get on your megaphone

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121 Heatley Ave
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