Our Vendors: Mario (Asphalt, Hanover, Germany)

After the breakdown of his marriage, Asphalt vendor Mario left it to fate – and the flight of a dart – to decide where he should move to in Germany. He ended up in Hanover but after an accident on a building site left him injured and out of work, he started selling Asphalt. He is currently starring in the INSP #VendorWeek 2016 campaign.

Mario selling Asphalt Photo: Karin Powser

By Mario, Asphalt vendor

It’s great that they play darts in nearly every pub these days. That’s the reason I came to Hanover. Or rather to Wunstorf. That’s where it landed. My dart.

It was in 2003. I was in a really bad state. Somehow, at that time nothing was going right in my life. Before that I lived just like everyone else. Born in Varel between Oldenburg and Wilhelmshaven, grew up in Rastede. Then I went to school in Oldenburg and trained to be a builder.

At some point I got married to a great lady. We had a son together who was just as great. I’m still in touch with him today. For eight years everything went well, and then it just didn’t fit anymore. My wife and I separated. And in general, too, I didn’t feel comfortable in my life at that point. So I made my decision very quickly. I wanted to get out of there and just start a brand new life somewhere else, away from Oldenburg.

So I was sitting in the pub one day. The dartboard in front of me. And a map of Germany. Then it occurred to me: my new home was only a dart’s throw away. So I aimed the dart at the map of Germany, and told myself that wherever it landed, that’s where I would start my new life. Yeah, and it was Hanover, Wunstorf. Perhaps not exactly what you’d call a dream destination, but actually I’m pretty happy with it.

What I didn’t know was that as a new citizen you had no right to council housing for the first six months. So to start with I ended up at the Jugendwerkssiedlung [a hostel for homeless people] in Hanover. Two months later I found my own flat. Later, a job on a building site as well. Although that didn’t go well.

In 2004, I fell eight metres over a railing on a building site. I could have died. But because my legs hit the ground first, I survived. The result: heel fractured in four places and my hip also took a heavy blow. That was the end of my career as a builder. I was 60% disabled and I was only 34 years old at the time.

I had a few temporary jobs, and then finally came to Asphalt. That’s eight years ago now. And right from the beginning I really liked it here. I just like the idea behind it. Not just hanging around at home and living on benefits, but doing something. And it’s much more fun to spend your own money than money that’s simply been handed to you – without you doing anything to earn it.

These days I don’t just sell the paper, but I do the alternative guided tours, too. Also, I help at the Nordbahnhof. That’s a day centre for the homeless in Hanover. And there I’ve seen that lots of people are much worse off than I am. So it really makes sense to help out. I’m needed there, and I enjoy that.

What I also really enjoy is my biggest hobby: cycling. Sometimes I cover 180 kilometres in one day. Lots of people give me a funny look and ask why I do such a long stretch. So I always tell them: The Tour de France people do that too. But they don’t take the whole day over it like I do.

Overall I’m doing pretty well. And I’ve got nothing to complain about. But even though I really like Hanover and it’s nice here, at some point I want to go back to Oldenburg. Home will always be home.

Mario was speaking to Mark Eickhorst.