Pushing Paper

Amid a flurry of sale rumors, Philly's Metro turns 8. Will the free daily make it to the decade mark?

By G.W. Miller III
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 23, 2008

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Photographs by Michael PersicoVideo by Cassidy Hartmann

"Come on, people!" Brenda Bowens barks. "Shake a leg. It's a happy Monday!"

An army of bundled-up, coffee-carrying, blank-faced drones trudges across Market Street near 15th at 8 a.m. with few people glancing at Bowens despite her bright orange jacket and ridiculously merry smile.

She doesn't give up.

"Let's rock 'n' roll!" she orders. "It's time to make the donuts!"

A "brand ambassador" for the Metro, Bowens waves copies of the free daily newspaper in the air, offering them to people who are rushing to work, waiting for the bus or running to catch a class.

But Bowens is more than just a street hawker. She can be a life counselor, comedian and sometimes even a friend to the anonymous.

"You got a paper already, baby?" she sassily asks a heavyset man in a black leather coat standing in line for the bus.

The man looks down and smiles sheepishly.

"Ah-huh," Bowens grunts. "You're cheating on me!"

She pivots to deliver more papers, to hug more morning regulars, to wave to more SEPTA drivers. She belts out more encouraging words, drops stacks of papers on buses, cracks jokes and even offers directions. She flags down a bus that tries to drive off as a wannabe-rider runs with her arms flailing in the air.

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