A cellphone ban at South Florida’s federal courthouses has created a new market. Vendors are charging to hold them for people who need to get to court quickly.
If you are running late for federal court, it pays to know the hot dog guy.
For 10 bucks, he will guard your cellphone — all but contraband inside the federal courthouses of South Florida.
The bushes, branches and planters have also become a virtual storage locker for the cellphones of jurors, witnesses and lawyers who learn at the front door that most electronic items, including Palm Pilots and laptop computers, are taboo.
Exceptions to the security rule are made, generally for courthouse employees and lawyers who have proof of bar membership on hand.
For the rest of us, left with little time to return to a parked car, desperation ensues.
”They beg,” said Kirtida Shah, owner of Bombay Bazaar, just down the street from Miami’s federal courthouse on North Miami Avenue. She wrinkles up her face. “I charge $2. They interrupt us. Sometimes we are busy with customers.”
Hot dog vendor Manuel Uribe, who sells on the southwest corner of First Avenue, stashes cellphones behind a bag of buns. Most customers pay a 10 spot.
Shah and Uribe are among a handful of entrepreneurs who traffic in the cell-watch-trade. The need arose in fall 2003, after the ban was imposed for all federal courtrooms in the Southern District of Florida — from Fort Pierce to Key West.
Corporate litigator Deborah Baker wasn’t aware of the cell watchers — to be sure, they don’t advertise.
Earlier this month, a guard at the Claude Pepper Federal Building, 51 SW First Ave., detained her at security five minutes before a client’s scheduled mediation.
After begging failed to sway him, she walked outside to a nearby planter, rearranged some shrubbery and buried her Nokia camera phone.