Thursday, October 15, 2009


Rick walked out of the back entrance of The Boston Store his mackinaw draped over his right arm and an oversized unopened beige duck cloth umbrella in his other. It was the end of his first day on the floor. He used the umbrella as a cane making a clicking sound as he walked on the concrete sidewalk. It had rained earlier in the day. The sky remained gray but the rain had moved east leaving a bitter wind behind. He scanned the parking lot for the car. As he stood there, his hand raised to shield the glare of the gray light reflected off the almost white surface of the vast parking lot, he looked very handsome. Except for the time when he was really sick and had stopped shaving he has always looked much younger than his actual age. His perfectly fitted dark suit over a blue striped shirt and a patterned tie made him look distinguished and elegant. He stood in contrast to the shoppers hustling by in their sweats and running shoes. It was three o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday, too early in the week and the day for students or young professionals to be trekking through the mall.  The crowd passing by looked older, more mature, more likely to fit into a retiree demographic. These were the ladies and gentlemen who made up his customer base, coming to him for his advise on his first day.
He found the car and fell in laying the umbrella on the floor and placing the mackinaw on his lap. I had brought Buddy along with. He perked up when he saw Rick and insisted on jump onto his lap.
“So how did it go?” I turned on the ignition and flicked on the lights as I pulled out of the parking space.
“It was fine.” Like father like daughter I thought, it was like listening to Emmy whose response to every inquiry about her day comprises the same minimalist retort.
“Anything interesting happen? Meet any new people?”
Then piece by piece I started to hear about the day: the diversity of the customers, how he had to deal with exchanges, how he opened his first customer account by offering an introductory 20% discount on one customer’s $300 purchase, and then he told me about Edith. Edith was his co-worker, standing side-by-side on the floor with Rick gently guiding him through his first day jitters. Edith had stood in that exact same spot for over ten years, helping customers, ringing up sales and guiding the uninitiated. Rick went on about how nice and helpful she was in spite of some odd idiosyncrasies. Edith was born with a defective hip that made her limp when she walked and list to the left when she stood. This was fine and commendable of The Boston Store to hire people with disabilities but in addition to the limping and listing Edith’s disability also left her with constant uncontrollable flatulence. Whether she limped or listed she tooted, sometimes singularly and at times with a machine gun-like rapidity. I had to hand it to her employers for sticking with a ten-year tooter. As unlikely as it would be to fire someone because of a physical disability it would be even harder to let someone go for a fart, so Edith has continued to do her work one step and two toots at a time.
No matter how hard I try I can’t rid myself of the image of Rick standing in his Armani suit, a broad smile glued to his face, with the diminutive and slightly listing Edith at his side offering his assistance to an unaware customer accompanied by the sweet sounds of Edith’s trumpeting musical butt.

You take what god hands you and you do your best. You allow no one to look down at you. Everyone is at eye-level even if you list a little to the left. I, like Edith, hope to walk with my head held high tooting as I go and not giving a damn what anyone else may think.
Step one, toot two

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