The View From Here

Jeff Brull, Executive Director HaysMed Foundation

I’ve never been a big pro baseball fan, but I’ve been to enough games to appreciate the appeal. There’s so much to see and experience: the smell of the food, the sounds of the crowd, the ballpark organ leading everyone in unison, the casual atmosphere with no clock telling you when it’s going to end, and the nostalgia and history of it all. Recently I heard a story about the vendors at Fenway Park selling hot dogs, beer, peanuts, cotton candy, and ice-cold Coke. The vendors are all independent contractors that get commission on each item sold. They also get to keep any tips they’ve earned. None of this is much of a surprise. What I didn’t know was the system and the planning that takes place hours before the opening pitch.

The most tenured vendors get first pick of the items they’ll peddle at each game and the section they’ll get to work. They know beer is always a good seller, and they know where in the park they’ll sell the most. José Magrass is a veteran vendor and has been the top seller for years running. José looks at the weather forecast and has spreadsheets of who is selling what and where so when his turn to choose comes, he can make a very educated decision. He was the 20th vendor on the list his particular night and chose hot dogs in the bleachers. All the beer trays were spoken for. José worked the crowd relentlessly all the way to the end of the game. When the score got so lopsided that the crowd started leaving, so did many of the vendors. Not José. He took the opportunity to move into the areas vacated by his competitors.

At the end of the game, José was the top commission-earner. All his hard work, research, and tenure paid off once again. The journalist interviewing José asked if he even stopped at all to watch the game. At this moment he admitted he couldn’t even say who it was the Red Sox were playing. He was so focused on his goal, he missed the whole ballpark experience.

We spend our lives chasing this goal and that one. It’s tempting to think of retirement as the ultimate goal – that everything we’re working towards, planning and saving is for that moment. While José’s work ethic and tenacity are certainly an example, it’s important to look up once in a while and enjoy the game.

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