In writing my play No one’s special at the hot dog cart, my true aim was to train my audiences to perform the de-escalation techniques I learned at my street job. Since then, I’ve been a 911 operator, an emergency room worker and hospital bed allocator, but when I de-escalate a situation and a co worker notices asks me “where did that come from?” I will always credit Hot dog vending as being it’s best teacher.
The thing about being a hot dog vendor is: you have nowhere to go.
Everyone knows you have cash somewhere, you cannot leave your spot to go to the washroom until your boss visits, or you can trust someone to stand there for you. The thing about being a (back then) female presenting hot dog vendor is – you’d better learn to help yourself not get stalked and assaulted, because no is scared of you.
So I learned. I learned that you should keep eye contact with someone when they speak, or this may be read as opposition. You should meet anxiety with compassion. If they are ranting at you, let them finish, let silence happen so that you can return them to a normal tone. Most people just need to feel heard, and when you give them that very small consideration, you both become safer in what could have been a greater incident. It’s not your job to argue someone’s perspective. That acceptance is everything, but boundaries can sometimes suffer.
These past few years of the pandemic have demonstrated how dangerous the western ideals of individualism are for our health care system. We are at a tipping point where we have been separating into two lanes, one being individual based thinking, the other is population/community based thinking. Having an option is, a privilege.