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The crowd holds its breath.
Christian Mitterbauer puts down his red vending tray, opens two cans of Budweiser, puts a plastic cup on top of each can, and, using only one hand, pours two beers into two cups at the same time.
"I call it the double pour," Mitterbauer says. "People say, You should have your own commercial. I was scared at first of the double pour. A friend of mine originated it. Now others are doing it. Of course not everyone can master it." Though Mitterbauer, 20, will probably not be asked to perform before the king, figuring out the double pour means selling more beer and making more commission. If the game is good, and the crowd is screaming, "Bump it up Mikey, baby," and Mr. Met is hopping up and down and the drums are pounding "Let's Go Mets, Let's Go Mets," Mitterbauer can bring in $220, sometimes $250 a game, easy.
Things were not always so rosy for Mitterbauer, who lives with his parents in Elmhurst and needs $2000 for his January semester at Hunter. Four years ago, on his first vending day, he stood in the rain for three hours and sold a few pretzels. "I only made about $20. That was pretty rough. I didn't want to go on because I was making so little." The next year he slid down a ramp with a tray full of sodas.
Now he estimates that he will make about $7000 this year, what with the double pour and having seniority, which "you get if you work 65 percent of the games. You make 16 instead of 13 percent commission and pretty much choose what items you want to sell. You usually see the older guys selling beer. People tip for beer."
He says old-timers are also partial to Cracker Jacks. "That's because there's only one vendor on each level. Also, you can throw the bags. People expect the peanut man to toss to them. People like catching the peanuts. But hot dogs. You have to stick the fork in, wrap it. Then there's the mustard. It's a whole process. Once there were seven hot dog guys on the mezzanine, 20 steps to climb. It was pretty awful for everyone. For some reason we all say, 'Hey,' first. 'Hey, beer here.' If you say, 'Hey, I got a sack of nuts here,' some people get annoyed, older people with kids get a serious face.
"I can't think of one job where you make as much in five hours. I had a bank job last year, $12 an hour, $18 overtime. I've always worked. I had a paper route when I was 12." His father is employed at a graphics company, his mother at LaGuardia College library. "I personally like this job because I'm a Mets fan. I've been a baseball fan since I've been alive." Though he finds that, for him, Shea Stadium has become a little ho-hum. "It was such a big deal to come as a kid. Now it's like, Oh, Shea. I wish I had a cot where I could just pass out for an hour."
Mitterbauer is yawning a lot lately not only is he "spending a little too much on nightlife it's really got to stop," but for two weeks, in addition to Shea, he worked the U.S. Open, earning $8.50 an hour wearing a blue polo shirt and "making sure people don't walk through the wrong doors during the match." He thinks it is a lot cooler at the Open. "Maybe because it's girls and guys working. Here it's mostly guys."
Mitterbauer does not think he will always have jobs at sports stadiums like the men who, in addition to their full-time jobs, bring in an extra $20,000 a year vending at both Shea and Yankee stadiums. He is planning to study film and media at Hunter. "I'm pretty much going with an open mind. I feel there's a lack of good movies out there. I'd like to give it a shot, writing movies and stuff. I don't know if I'll be an actor, maybe a director. That would be the pinnacle of it all."