First Person Singular: Clarence Rucker, 56, Nationals Park beer hawker

Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST - Clarence Rucker, 56, a beer hawker at Washington Nationals games: “I’ll continue doing this until I get tired. I enjoy this as a workout, and I have fun.”

I started in RFK selling sodas and water and hot dogs. Redskins games. I got an opportunity to see a Redskins-Cowboy game, and I saw these guys moving around, and I thought, Hmm. I’d like to try that. So the next year, I went over there and inquired. Got in. You get to see the games, make a little money.

When you first start out, you do water and sodas. Then you move up: hot dogs, then beer. I love it. Sometimes I’ll sell hot dogs just to mix it up. I get to say, “Hot diggity dog!” Some fans walk past me, and they’ll ask, “Do you sing opera? Are you an announcer?” I have a very distinctive voice.

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You get to know a lot of the fans. They’ll give you hugs and want to take pictures. They know you by name. I’m in Section 142. I come up 138, and I go all the way around to 101, the Red Porch on the corner. I have some fans in 142 that basically are my crew. They’ll look for me. I have one guy, he wears a green cap. When he comes to a game, he looks strictly for me. If he’s in the corner and I’m by Red Porch, he’ll stand up and tip his cap, and I’ll hit back at him as a sign. They get to see you, and they know you.

If I’m serving a beer and the customer drops it, I’m not going to make them pay. I’ll take it back and trade it in. Or if you come across a guy and he only has $7 — beers are eight — I’ll say, “I’m not going to let you go without.” Believe it or not, they’ll see me again and say, “Remember you got me? Here you go.” Little things like that. It all comes back to you. You keep it on that level.

I’d been a firefighter for 29 years. Had a good run. It was time. I’ll continue doing this until I get tired. I enjoy this as a workout, and I have fun. My wife will look at me and say, “Go on and do your thing.” She’ll come out just to see me. My mom passed two years ago; she used to come out and say, “I hear you over there. I hear you!” That made me feel good. She always said this was my passion. I have five grandkids, and they see me [here] and say, “Pop-pop?”

You come in some days, and you might make $20. Another day you might make $80. It’s not really the money. It’s the fun you have doing it. As long as you keep it that way, it will always be great.

 
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