Saturday, April 14, 2012

Name Tags

I shop at a particular local grocery store.  I don’t go there because they stock everything I’m looking for.  Hell, they barely have my brand of toilet paper in stock.  They do have a very delicious looking row full of candy bars rights next to the coffees, the horrible assholes.

I don’t care for the ambiance, either.  That’d be akin to going to a dentist’s office just to hang out.  No; you don’t hang out a dentist.  This man makes a living drilling things out of your skull.  At least if people are going to get money from me by inflicting pain on me, it will be because they put something in me like a tattoo.

The parking’s not very good either.  It’s a one-way parking lot where all the spaces point the wrong way.  Imagine looking at a feather while holding the tip of the quill.  The way each element branches from the quill is the way proper parking should be in a one way strip.  All these spaces face the opposite damn direction.

I go there, because I know one person working there.  Not know this guy: we’ve never been out for dinner; I haven’t met his family; he’s never gone on to tell me his take on the Higgs Boson and the LHC.  I know his name, and he knows mine, and we small talk while he rings me out for three large hams, buttermilk, and Miralax.  He doesn’t question my purchasing decisions, he just goes on asking how work has been, how’s the wife, etc.

I’d given the same stock replies until about a year ago.  I’d actually told him how my day was going, and proceeded to see how his was.  Well let me tell you- changed this guy’s world.  His eyes – tired with a faint redness, and yellowing around the whites – lit up like a fourth of July fireworks show.  He told me about his son, spending the holiday with his family, he was curious about my tattoos – we talked for nearly twenty minutes.  I stepped to the side so he could help other customers just so I could continue talking to him.

He’s an average white male, late fifties.  Still seems to have most of his teeth.  Full head of hair that’s more salt than pepper.  His lower eyelids hang from low, weighed down with the seemingly simple efforts such as staying awake.  His legs are thin and permanently bent from working at a low register, while his stomach has a Santa-esque jolliness to it in the way he rests on the edge of the counter.  He moves his hands quickly, but he’s otherwise a very reserved man.  Above all else, he’s not the kind of conversationalist you’d ever expect to work at a grocery store.  He knows I prefer plastic, and when I drop a big old bag of romaine on the counter, he asks how the rabbits are doing.

For years, I’ve heard how it is employees that make the brand.  I like to believe I was pretty good at adhering to that mantra (well, apparently not quite good enough, or I wouldn’t be writing for you today).  In all that time I never thought I saw what I was recycling for my own employees whenever I would go shopping, yet, I have seen it many times here for the past handful of years.  This stranger, who for one hundred twenty seconds is as family, does more than make me appreciate the shopping location, he makes me appreciate the people who work there.

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