With Labor Day approaching, this would be an appropriate time to acknowledge working people who we see and talk to on a regular basis, but who are not part of our inner circle of family and friends.
The cashier at the market, the waitress at the coffee shop, the person who cuts our hair—all play an integral role in making our lives flow smoothly and adding a depth of humanity to our existence.
What is peculiar about these brief encounters is that for the worker, one customer is just one of hundreds while for the customer the interaction holds more meaning; it’s easier for us to remember them because we only have one hair stylist, one mechanic, etc.
Take Tony, the owner of Cornejo’s service station for over 40 years. This is where I get gas and have my car serviced. Mechanics have a notorious reputation, but I lucked out finding someone who does quality work for reasonable prices. Beyond that, we keep up-to-date on each other’s families, and Tony’s views on the political scene is worth the visit alone.
For the past 28 years, Petite holds down the fort at Handy Market. She knows me as the syrup guy since she special orders a maple syrup that my kids can’t seem to get enough of. When she was in school, she was a slow reader and because of that many classmates made fun of her. Now, she is the face of Handy Market, entrusted in opening the store up each morning. The girl who was teased at school has become an integral part of the Burbank community.
The epitome of customer service, Marti works at the Tallyrand coffee shop. Once you sit down in her area, she acknowledges you within a minute with bright eyes and a happy grin. For regulars, she doesn’t take your order; she tells you what your order will be from memory, including special requests like “crispy bacon” and “hold the avocado.”
Her energetic personality—“are you ready, ready”—puts a smile on the grumpiest customer. She often shares segments of her life story, some good, some not, yet retains an optimistic outlook with her faith in God. May she be there another 20 years.
For over a quarter of a century, Don cut my hair at three different hair salons that he owned. During that time, we learned a lot about one another’s lives even though each monthly visit lasted barely 30 minutes.
Interesting how we often share intimate details of our lives with service providers, sometimes things we don’t share with people we live with.
When Don retired seven years ago, I panicked, not just because I needed to find someone to creatively cover my bald spots, but because the history we shared vanished, and I had to get to know a new stylist unsure if we would hit it off conversationally.
Fortunately, I met Armand at the same Joseph Lamar Hair Salon. Once a month we converse about how the Dodgers are playing as well as how well he plays golf. Just as he has gotten to know about my family and career, I’ve gotten to know the career trajectory of his two musical sons.
I feel an emotional investment with these individuals. I dread the day when I go where they work and discover that they are no longer there. How hollow my life will be.
What makes these folks stand out is their pleasant attitude, willing to go the extra mile in performing their job with nothing but kindness to motivate them.
As we travel life’s journey, the road would be less familiar without them. Clearly, it is a labor of love for these dedicated folks.