If you see Ed Arthurs selling papers at Third Avenue and Seneca Street by the Seattle light rail entrance, you may notice Cosby first. Cosby is Ed’s little dog, who is always with him.
Second, you may notice Ed is in a wheelchair. He was paralyzed as a tree trimmer in Kansas City, the best-paying job he ever had.
“It was an ‘outlaw’ tree trimming and spraying company. Everybody was ex-convicts,” Ed said. The owner “wanted people that had little scruples. I worked as a laborer and then on the spray rigs, and sales at night.
“Then he wanted me full-time sales.” Ed has long been noticed for his calm salesmanship.
As a kid, Ed worked the farms of his grandparents, aunts, uncles and great-aunts. He grew up on military bases in Texas and Georgia. Then, he went into the military at age 17.
After the military, he worked a sales job and then for a tree-trimming company, whose owner had various scams. One involved selling “snake spray,” using a rat snake from a pet store to convince people they had a snake problem.
One day, “15 cop cars surrounded our convoy. They were looking for a snake and we said, ‘If you think there’s a snake back there, you just reach right into them evergreen clippings and try to find it.’”
“The cops said, ‘We ain’t about to do that! One more complaint — you’re all going to jail.’”
The back injury Ed received working there forced him out of the company. “When you can’t get out and knock doors, you can’t sell. It’s hard to get up to a door when you’re in a wheelchair. When you talk to people, they figure, ‘he’s had accidents. We don’t want him on the job.’”
Ed eventually ended up in Portland, Oregon, until he left everything for a relational split.
“I left the high-rise to my lady friend and took a doorway in Seattle, and thought it was a fair trade. It was the rainiest November on record in Seattle.”
Ed was on the streets with his wheelchair for almost seven years. “You just fold it up and put your legs over it [when you sleep].”
He noticed Real Change soon after he arrived. He already knew how to sell things, and selling Real Change didn’t involve any scams.
Finally, he got a subsidized apartment. “Took a while to get used to getting civilized again. Learning to pay bills. Learning to budget money.”
Ed is celebrating his 10th anniversary of sobriety, a change he made much for the better after the disease took a major toll.
He has three stomach diseases that put him on a restricted diet: “no fresh fruit, no fresh veggies, nothing with seeds, any potatoes or anything with skins, no fatty meats, no pork. Beef has to be real lean. No poultry, no ham. Had to learn what lamb tasted like.”
Cosby and Ed’s stoic presence help sell papers. Ed got Cosby from the animal shelter soon after he got sober. The sweet little dog is always up to make friends. Cosby takes after Ed in this way.
Ed’s sales took a hit when the tunnel entrance next to him lost bus passengers and the building above him lost a big corporation. “I lost seven floors of people. It takes years to build back up a corner. I’m glad for the ones [customers] I’m getting. Miss the ones that are gone. Hope to see a few of them over the holidays.”
Ed Arthurs is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles.
Read the full Dec. 11 - 17 issue.
© 2019 Real Change. All rights reserved.| Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice since 1994. Learn more about Real Change and donate now to support independent, award-winning journalism.