By Sabine Beck, Strassenkreuzer
Standing at more than two metres in height, 66-year-old Karlheinz Schnabel is one of life’s giants. His life hasn’t always run smoothly, due to the death of his daughter and breakdown of his marriage, but he remains positive. Elected as a representative of Strassenkreuzer vendors, and later promoted to sales director, he’s currently returned to selling the street paper in one of Nuremburg’s biggest shopping centres.
What brought you to Nuremberg, of all places, from Nordrhein-Westphalia?
I came back to Nuremberg and my Franconian homeland because I had the possibility of a job here. I’m a trained toolmaker and telecommunications engineer. However, I became unemployed in 2002 and couldn’t find another job in Nordrhein-Westphalia.
At the same time, my marriage broke apart. Unfortunately, the job in Nuremburg didn’t work out because I was too old for the young team. They should have known that before I came, because they knew how old I was. While I was unemployed, I received my qualification in CNC programming and installation.
I also got my qualifications for quality control and as a REFA assistant. It didn’t help me at all, because despite those qualifications I still couldn’t get a job anymore. And that’s all I’ll say on the theme of the skills shortage in Germany.
How did you come into contact with Strassenkreuzer?
In jail! [Laughs.] In 1995 I lost my driver’s license because of too many points. Because I lived in Nordrhein-Westphalia way out in the country and had to get to work, I kept driving without a license. When I got caught, I was supposed to pay a fine of €2,000, which I didn’t have, so I had to go to jail for eight weeks instead.
There I met my friend Bertram, who was also doing jail time instead of a fine. He brought me along to Strassenkreuzer and everything stuck. First I was in the writing workshop, then worked as a seller, and then I was hired to do the city tours.
“Strassenkreuzer is a great magazine… and the contact with the customers is just priceless”
After that I was elected to the board as a representative for the sellers and was at the same time the sales director. In 2011 I quit for personal reasons. Since 2013 I’ve been selling Strassenkreuzer again and have a great sales spot at the Röthenbacher Shopping Centre and a whole lot of regular customers.
Strassenkreuzer is a great magazine and I think it’s terrific that everyone can contribute in their own ways to the success of a street paper. The sales give me a good additional income for my pension, which I’ve now started to collect – and the contact with the customers is just priceless.
Your life hasn’t exactly run along smoothly. How have you managed to handle everything?
Of course I haven’t always been lucky – but other people aren’t either. In 1995 I had a heart attack, in 2002 I lost my job, in 2003 I lost my driver’s license, in 2004 my marriage hit the rocks, and then in 2006 I got divorced.
To be without work and to not be used was a horrible feeling, which the Strassenkreuzer has really helped me get over. In 2012 finally I had a stroke. I haven’t sustained any physical damage, but I had to go to a logopedist to learn to talk again. The worst experience for me, however, was the death of my daughter. She died of cancer in 2012 at 39 years of age and left three children behind.
What do you wish for the future?
That everything will keep going on as it is now, and that I stay halfway healthy. I can create the life that I want and I’m not dependent on any agency – that’s a great feeling. Of course I also hope that I can keep selling Strassenkreuzer for a couple more years. Through the good contact I have with the people who buy it, I get so many positive reactions that enrich my life.
Read more vendors’ stories from all over the world here.