For extroverts like Vernon Cormier, working through a global pandemic has been impactful in numerous ways. Where once crowded Seattle streets welcomed his outgoing and warm personality, he has had to adapt to a much calmer city and find new ways to connect with his customers in a cultural time that has been all about social distance.
“When you walk around with a mask on, you see people you know and you can’t even recognize them,” Cormier said. Cormier, who has been a Real Change vendor for nearly seven years, said that losing those daily and familiar interactions has been the most challenging part of this year-plus for him.
Cormier grew up in the Central District of Seattle in a large, close family. His dad had 14 brothers and 8 sisters. “It’s exciting to be in a big family,” he said. “The only thing bad about it is you go to a lot of weddings and funerals.” This is how Cormier views the world; you have to take the bad with the good.
It’s been an adjustment for Cormier not to be in such an active environment. He can’t wait to see actual smiles on faces again and misses the little things, like small talk in front of the storefronts where he sells the paper or waving hello to an old friend. “Everybody is standoffish, but it’s not their fault. They’re worried about taking care of their families,” he said.
Cormier said he has seen a major downturn in his sales and has lost a third of his regular customers. Cormier received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and, despite the drop in sales, can’t help himself from cracking a joke when asked if he reacted to the vaccine: “I think I’m too optimistic to get sick,” he said.
Cormier likes being a Real Change vendor because he is a people person, and the job matches well with his bubbly personality — and he likes being his own boss. “I just took to it,” he said.
Jokes and a positive attitude are how Cormier gets through the rougher patches in life. He also leans on his faith and on his passion: books.
No matter where he is, he finds a way to keep his books close. Cormier reads a great variety of books and reads all the time.
This is part and parcel with his commitment to lifelong learning. “You should be able to learn from experiences; if you don’t, you’re doing something wrong,” he said.
Cormier has worked in communications since graduating high school, but he’s also never shied away from learning a new skill. Welding, telemarketing, campaigning for organizations such as the American Heart Association — he’s even written a few short stories.
Part of the appeal of extroversion is, ironically, that Cormier is also a calm and reserved person, who soaks up the environment, just like when he reads, to learn about people and the world.
Lately, he is longing for the hustle and bustle of people and an environment that never stops moving.
When asked what he’s most excited to do as travel restrictions lift, Cormier can’t help but smile. “Go to the ocean, eat fruit and watch the waves.”
Cormier is a firm believer in karma and was no doubt influenced by childhood churchgoing and watching his father, a reverend at New Hope Baptist Church, and his uncle, who is a deacon, preach. “I treat people like I want to be treated,” Cormier said. “I don’t do something to somebody if I don’t want it done to me.”
Read more of the May 26 - June 1, 2021 issue.