I see my new friend almost every time I visit our local drugstore. He’s the greeter and security guard at the front door. He’s there a lot. Therein lies a tale.
Months ago, I figured he was ex-military. We’d salute each other, and I’d jokingly say, “At ease!” or “As you were!” and we’d both laugh. His good humor and ready smile are contagious.
Waiting for my sister to finish her shopping in the store this afternoon, I struck up a conversation with my new friend, instead of just whizzing by and wishing him a great day.
I said, “You’re here a lot. That’s good, I hope. Why so many hours?”
“The young guy they hired often fails to make it. My boss has to call me in. I get paid time-and-a-half for over-time. My boss wishes he didn’t have to pay me so much, but he needs someone here he can rely on.”
“When we were growing up, there was a stronger sense that one needed to be reliable on the job. Are you ex-military?”
“Twenty years in the Air Force.”
“What did you do?”
He was a mechanic servicing, among other things, the radar systems for B-52s, those giant bombers that carried big bombs, including H-bombs.
“Twenty-six years as a guard in the Corrections Department, including time serving in Sing-Sing.”
“I grew up in a bad part of New Haven. Nothing new to me.”
“The triumph of optimism over experience!” My standard reply, having been married twice myself, this last one a big success.
He laughed. He did not mention a current wife, so I assumed he had three divorces to match his marriages, but maybe his last ended in a funeral.
My sister emerged from the store with her bag of stuff. My new friend and I shook hands, wished each other well. We’ll meet again. We’ll ask each other our names next time, not that this is crucial. We are already friends.
In the 1979 comedic film Being There, Peter Sellers played Chance, the gardener, whose simplistic statements were widely mistaken as profundity, perhaps because he was present at many historic moments. Some big Washington reputations may rest on not much more, the film hints.
Woody Allen once claimed, “Showing up is eighty percent of life.” We ourselves may sometimes say that someone is “always there” for us. Not only work but also dating, marriage, and parenting put a premium on proximity.
My career tip: show up…be there…and don’t be late.
Dr. Cooper is a retired scientist, now a writer, author and writing coach. His first book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, was published by Outskirts Press in 2011 and is available from Outskirts Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, in paperback and ebook formats, as are his co-authored memoirs The Shield of Gold and Ava Gardner‘s Daughter? and the memoir he edited, High Shoes and Bloomers. His writer-coaching web site is http://writeyourbookwithme.com. His new friend is William Harris.