A few days ago I was hanging out with a friend who lives a few blocks away when she said to me: “Did you see that big rhinestone hoop earring Julius was wearing the other day?”
Now, what’s funny about this sentence is that Julius (for the purposes of our story, I’ve changed his name) probably hasn’t the faintest idea what my name is, or what my friend’s name is, though I’m certain he knows us by sight. Julius is a particular checker at our local, very busy grocery store, and in a way, he’s a bit of a celebrity, as I bet the several thousand people who live and shop nearby know exactly who he is. In fact, I could probably go up to a total stranger at a nearby coffee shop and say, “You know that checker who…” and they would instantly know who I’m talking about.
He’s cute, Julius is. Cute enough to inspire the occasional idle conversation between me and my friend, anyway. Slight, dark-haired, blue-eyed, youngish. Young enough to still be conducting experiments with his facial hair and to be trying out that aforementioned rhinestone earring, and for me not to worry too much that he’ll ever find out that I’ve blogged about him, because to be young and male means his favorite topic of conversation is him, and odds are good that he won’t find out that I’m an author unless I tell him point blank. But he’s sharp and friendly and funny and hyper and flirtatious (and straight, despite the earring, which mercifully only made a brief appearance), and he talks and laughs in a nearly endless stream as customers pour through his line. And he does know my cat has digestive issues (his cat does, too), because we talked about organic cat food and various other things I’ve bought over the years. Doubtless he knows things like this about hundreds of people.
But a few months ago, Julius mysteriously disappeared for a time, and the grocery store was an entirely different place. The light and energy sort of went out of it. I heard person after person ask other checkers about him as I went through the line; when he reappeared months later, I heard person after person express delight. He’s positively gifted at his particular job (which he’s had for many years), and I think we all appreciate him. Even sort of rely on him.
I’ve learned to be grateful for people like that, people who make the everyday chores of life just a little brighter, because boy, jobs that require constantly fielding the vicissitudes of the public are not easy (someday I’ll blog about my days as a Round Table Pizza cashier. Hoo boy.) Do you have someone like that in your neighborhood or hometown? Me, I also have the guy at the Greek fast food place, who cheerfully hollers out my order to the cook the minute he sees me—“The #1 with chicken! She likes onions!” We always have a few laughs while I’m waiting, and I always walk out a little happier than I went in. Not that I walk around in a cloud of gloom, typically, but you know what I mean. (The #1 is Chicken Shawerma over rice and veggies with salad. Yum.) Then there’s the woman at the gift shop, who does know I’m an author and who’s been marvelously helpful over the years, particularly when I’ve bought promotional items or gifts, and we talk about books and publishing and cats when I stop in. There’s the very pleasant guy from Pakistan who runs the tiny corner store where just about everything—incense, toilet paper, bungee cords, bottled water, sweatshirts, you name it—costs a buck. I once went in and bought a plunger and a box of pudding, and he said, very comfortingly, “Ah. I see you have a little problem, but afterwards you will have dessert.”
So what about you guys? Any retail celebrities in your hometown or your neighborhood, someone who just makes the day a little brighter by being helpful and good at their jobs, someone you and all your neighbors know? Conversely, is there someone you try to avoid in a particular store or a restaurant?? Ever had a retail job or a job serving the public? And what else is going on with everyone? I’ve been up to something for the past several days—I have a new little project I’ll reveal in a week or so. LOL. I’ll have a new contest up by tomorrow night, too.