Hot Dog Stand

There is a famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik that is beyond legendary. No matter time of day, no matter what the weather, there is always a line up waiting for these deliciacies. That in and of itself is a mystery as there is nothing observably special about these dogs.

They are store bought weiners. They are boiled in water. They are served in a cheap white bun. The toppings are ketchup, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, chopped onions and cooked crispy onion crumbles. I pass on the ketchup personally.

Still, it’s almost indescribable to illustrate the incredible taste of these let alone the mouth drooling anticipation as one stands in line. And while I did have an apartment during this trip, and shopped at a local grocery store, buying eggs, green veggies and fruits primarily, I decided on the first night of my trip to indulge myself and waited with the crowd to get my two hot dogs.

After a lengthy bit of time, I had my prize and was walking away from the famous hot dog stand, smiling, breathing in deeply of the sweet aroma, with the plan to head back to my apartment and enjoy this Icelandic treasure.

Then I met “Dave”.

I put Dave in quotes becasue firstly, that isn’t his real name, and secondly, I learned later that week from someone that David is the second most common name in the world after Mohammed.

Dave sat on the side of the street. Dave was homeless. As you may recall, part of my Icelandic experience this trip was to gain new perspectives from strangers, and as this was my first night back here, I thought Dave might be a perfect candidate.

I politely approached him and offered him a hot dog. There was clearly a communication issue as he reached for both, and I obliged with only a trace amount of sadness. We then sat together, and despite some small language barriers (his English was still far superior to my Icelandic), I found myself laughing easily and engrossed in his tales. His ability to weave a story was spellbinding, and I asked if we could take a picture together. No pictures. No name. Thus … Dave.

I spent time with Dave every single day of my trip; always with two hot dogs in hand. It was a small price to pay for his company. There were days he moved me to tears at the tragedies he had experienced and seen in his native country over the last fifty or so years. There was also more laughter. I honestly can say I learned more about Iceland and European culture from Dave in one week than I think I could in a lifetime of tourist visits abroad. He was definitely one of the most interesting people I’ve met in recent memory.

On my final day, today, Dave and I sat together at the hot dog stand. Some stared, some ignored, some didn’t care, and I found myself a little sad adding one more friend to the list of those I’d be leaving behind in Iceland once again. Dave surprised me and asked for money, something he hadn’t done to date, and I think that may have been part of why I kept coming back honestly.  I was a little put off.

I’ve never been big on giving money directly to homeless people. That’s just me. Judge away.

I gave it some thought, and since I was leaving and wouldn’t be needing it, I decided to break my own rule and gave Dave the last of my Icelandic money. Now understand something about what happens next. Downtown Reykjavik is small. The hot dog stand, the liquor store, Dave’s step, all of them are within a five minute walk of each other.  So as I wished Dave goodbye and started to walk away, I decided to see if he was immediately going to get booze. Within seconds me being “out of sight”, the liquor store was exactly the direction Dave went, and I followed from a distance.

Dave stopped not far from his step and spoke with another homeless guy I hadn’t seen previously, probably to gloat about the money score he had made from a gullible tourist, and was inviting him to go drinking or some such. I felt betrayed, a little angry, and hugely disappointed – both with Dave, and with myself.

Then they walked back towards me. I felt my heart jump, though I don’t know why it would matter if I had been seen, but I retreated back towards the hot dog stand. Moments later, Dave stood in line, bought two hot dogs, and gave them to his friend.

It would seem that sometimes I’m still a judgemental dick. Maybe believing the best in people isn’t the worst way for me to keep living. One more life lesson Dave taught me this week and will never know.

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5 responses to “Hot Dog Stand

  1. Excellent Roc. I already ‘knew’ how the story was going to end, having had an almost identical situation where I am in Adelaide, Oz.

    The most gratifying part being when your story ended 180 degrees opposite to mine and ‘Dave’ didn’t go to the pub … and sit and count out pockets full of coin before ordering a drink I couldn’t afford, (like my ‘Dave’ did).

    Funny old world.

  2. Once you give someone money it’s no longer yours and is theirs to spent as they see fit. If they would rather spent it on booze instead of on hotdogs then they are entitled to.

    Otherwise you should ask what they are planning to do with the money beforehand and optionally buy it for them to make sure they spent it on approved products/services.

    That said, props to the positive message you sent out in your posts. The above is not meant as critique, just telling you not to worry or get angry about things out of your control.

    It also depends on the reason why you are giving that person money. If you want to help that person and think you know what is best for them then you might care how your gift is spent. If you just give money so you can geel good yourself about giving then it doesn’t matter to you what he spends it on.
    Most people giving to charity fall in the second category. They give so they can feel good about themselves and are selfish, not because they actually care about helping others.

  3. Human survival depended on learning from our environment. Humans became very adept at this, so we still sit on the top tier (not alone) of the food chain. You’re not so much judgmental as you (we) are conditioned. Yet, since you’re aware of the conditioning, you can change the behavior if you choose to do so. That adaptation too, is survival.

    I’m glad you met Dave, I’m glad you were able to share a few bright moments with him. Perhaps Dave and his buddy are glad too. That’s all you can ask.

  4. Every now and then life steps and teaches you something, if you’re lucky it’s something useful about life or your environment, but if you’re really lucky it’s about yourself, provided you can take the lesson and move on with it.

    One person once told me, “your most useful tool resides firmly between your ears, don’t be afraid to shift it’s perspective.”

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