Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mr. Josh

Today, after dropping The Boy off at summer day camp, I dropped by the Publix to replenish my stock of snacks and stuff to make little people's lunches. Now that summer is here, that stuff seems to disappear.

I picked a good day to go, because Publix was having a Green Tag sale (stuff all over the store was BOGO - Buy One Get One Free). I filled up the cart with 2fers and made my way to the checkout.

As I was unloading all of my stuff onto the conveyer belt, I noticed that the bagger was an older black man. This always makes me feel really guilty - when people that pack my groceries are old enough to be my parents. I just have this really deep sense of disrespect, seeing retirement-aged people asking me "paper or plastic?"

Anyway, it wasn't long before all of my things were expertly bagged and placed back into my cart. At the Publix, your cart gets taken outside and your groceries get loaded for you. Period. Also, the Publix workers are NOT allowed to accept tips (I've tried on many occasions to tip them anyway, but they never take it.)

As I completed my transaction, I heard a few other Publix workers call out "Hi Josh!" to the man that was pushing my cart full of groceries, and his cheery "Good Morning!" was a pleasant thing to hear as we made our way toward the parking lot. He made sure to ask me "Ready, ma'am?" before he proceeded, and I answered quickly, "Yes Sir," mortified that this man, easily 70, was "ma'am"ing me.

When we were about to cross the parking lot, an impatient driver was honking his horn at ANOTHER driver that had stopped momentarily at the storefront to drop off a very frazzled-looking Publix worker. As she dashed into the store, Josh confidentially said, "I hope she makes it before the top of the hour. If you're late, you get written up." He went on to say with a smile, "Isn't it a beautiful day today?"

I agreed that it was beautiful, and not nearly as hot as it had been. He went on to make pleasant conversation, saying "I always try to be early to work. Starts my day off better. The job I had before this one, I worked there 31 years. I was only late one time. It was in downtown Atlanta, so I always made sure I got there an hour early. I usually had time to have a cup of coffee and read the paper." I marveled at that, as he continued to talk . . .

"I learned my habits from my father. No matter what he had to do, no matter what day it was, he was up by 4:00 in the morning, drinking a cup of coffee." Naturally, I had to ask him what time his father went to bed, and he seemed delighted to continue the conversation.

"Well, he would go to bed about 7 or 8 of an evening. Back then, you didn't have all of the things that people have now. There wasn't much to do once the sun went down, and by that time, people that worked hard were grateful for the opportunity to rest."

I considered that for a minute and said, "Mr. Josh, I am not so sure that wouldn't be best now."

He chuckled, and said, "You can just call me plain ol' Josh, ma'am, and I think you might be right about that."

He looked thoughtful for a minute, as he finished putting my groceries into the back of my car, he continued a few of this thoughts. "I've been here 11 years now, and I have a little cleaning business, too. I've cleaned the same office now for 34 years."

Incredulous, I said, "So, you have worked 2 jobs continually for nearly 40 years?" He smiled and said, "Yes ma'am. I've always had 2 jobs. I'm not sure what I would do if I didn't have a second job. I take care of my garden and yard and house chores on Saturday, and of course I go to church on Sunday. I never have worked on Sunday. I was raised that way. I saw my parents work hard always, and go to church on Sunday. They never drank, or smoked. I haven't either. I've never done any drugs, and I think that people are made for hard work. It keeps you young." With a smile, he concluded, "Now, I will admit, I do enjoy a Coke or KoolAid. As long as I can have a cold Coke or a KoolAid of an afternoon, I am all right!"

I laughed at that, telling him I loved KoolAid too. He seemed pleased to hear that, and wished me a good day. "I hope you have a good day, too, Mr. Josh," I said, as I got into my car.

You can find heroes in the most unlikely places.

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