But right across the street, in front of Penn Station, Charlotte Robinson is doing all she can to attract attention. “Extra! Extra! Read all about it! AmNew York!” she bellows.”Pick it up! Pick it up!” Her voice is curt and stentorian, and she speaks as rapidly as an auctioneer, or an excited horse-race announcer. There are four other vendors nearby, but Robinson, 58, still stands out. Short and stocky, with her hair tied back severely in a small plait, she wears khaki shorts, sensible black sneakers, and a bright pink T-shirt that clashes with her red amNew York vest. A middle-aged man in a blue-checked shirt and jeans greets Robinson by name and hugs her, before dashing off with his paper. She says he works nearby. “I see all of these people here, every day,” she said. “Everybody knows me.”

Robinson has been a vendor at Penn Station for four years. “I was on public assistance at the time, and public assistance wanted people to get a job. So I went out and got a job,” she said. All sorts of people pass through the station. “You got some cranky people. Some that’s alright,” she said, and “some that laugh and joke with you.” A few regular commuters look out for her during the holiday season, giving her cards and money at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

She appreciates their kindness and takes real pleasure in the people she meets. “I like to kid and joke a lot. I like to make people smile,” she said. “I still have a little kid in me.”


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Edirin Oputu is an assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @EdirinOputu