ROBERT Paul Sarro is one of the millions of Americans George Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot will never meet.
He is not a famous person. He has no expense account. Few of his neighbors even know his real name. "Everybody just calls me 'Porky,' " he says. "That's what they know me by. They don't need no telephone number to get hold of me. Everybody knows where I hang out."
Porky hangs out at Hollins Market most of the time these days because that's where he works. The rest of the time, he can be found at Tom Thumb, a local beer bar that caters to people who don't fit in with the yuppie crowd that is slowly taking over the neighborhood.
"They [the yuppies] never liked me because I used to work in the stables," says Porky, "and when you work around horses, you always smell like it. Hell, even the regular people would sometimes ask me to keep away before I went to work in the market, where it's clean."
Butch Murphy, another Tom Thumb regular, likes Porky but agrees that "he used to smell like something you didn't want hanging around with you." Butch is the sort of guy who will get concerned about you if he sees your car parked where he doesn't expect to find it. Few of Butch's friends wear ties at work, but even he admits that Porky wasn't always a perfect person. "Porky could stink like two horses, and they don't let horses in bars," Butch says. "It's a good thing he got into a cleaner line of work."
But odor wasn't the main reason Porky got out of the horse business and started carting vegetables. He was one of the Baltimoreans displaced by the new stadium. See, the stable for the horses and carriages that ride around the Inner Harbor used to be in a tumbledown warehouse located about where Oriole Park's high-priced seats are.
When the stable moved to Federal Hill, Porky had to walk a long way to and from work. "I started getting colds and all kinds of things all the time," he says. "Finally, I had to quit. I loved the horses, but it was so far to walk that I was always sick in the winter."
None of the three major presidential candidates can be expected to understand Porky's finances. They don't meet people like him. Moreover, the Porkys of this world rarely vote. He doesn't give a fig about the candidates, and I suspect they don't give a fig about him. "I've never voted in my life," says Porky. "What good would it do? I never finished high school."
With or without education, Porky has always managed to find work. He's even achieved a certain measure of fame. "When they were talking about building the new stadium," he says, "some reporter [from the Evening Sun] came around and talked to me, and they took my picture and everything. I still have the paper they ran the story in, from years ago."
Like other Americans, Porky has doubts about press accuracy. "When they was interviewing me," he says, "they kept asking me about how my livelihood was threatened because of the new stadium being built, what with the stables having to go away, but nobody stopped to think the stables would just move like they did, and not close or anything. Those reporters should have done their research before they wrote the story."
Having had his name in the paper is one of the best things that's happened to Porky. "It makes me a celebrity," he says. In a way I guess it does. But the people he cares about already know him. VTC "My neighbors, they know how to find me, and Bob here, and Butch and the people I work for over at the produce stand in the market. They all know how to get hold of me, and to tell whether I'm home or not."
Politicians, of course, don't know how to get hold of Porky. He doesn't live in the same world they do. He has no phone. He doesn't even have a checking account, so he couldn't bounce a check if he tried. He doesn't have a car, let alone a chauffeured limousine.
But he's still out here, working, drinking his bit of beer and paying rent on his little room.
I doubt that any politicians will come looking for Porky this year, even if he no longer smells like horses most of the time.
But I will. The next time I see him, I may even buy him a beer -- as long as it's before 6 p.m., when draft Bud at the Tom Thumb goes from $1 a mug to $1.50.
Robin Miller drives a cab in Baltimore.