I’m a Product Developer by day and a restaurant employee by night. So, last night I was working my shift at the restaurant. I get there about 5 PM on a normal day of commute from the office. I’m on my second double now, Tuesday being day 1 of the series of doubles I am about to pull for the rest of the week. Wednesday night is my usual, one shift a week as a Manager.
But, like I’ve always said…the people make it worth it. I love the public, even though it can be a cruel crowd sometimes. I pray more people make me smile rather than making me pull the hair out of my head by my third hour clocked in. I always try to make it a good one. You never know who you’re going to meet.
Every Wednesday night I take a take-out order for the same gentleman, James. He’s super kind. He walks in and orders the same pizza every week. I look forward to seeing my kind regulars when I work there. It gives me a right to ask about their week, weekend, what is new.
So along with ordering the same pizza, his total is $11.24, and he stands in the same spot while waiting. Dividing his attention between his phone and the TV above displaying KENO lottery numbers. This is the normal thing. When taking an order the computer prompts us to add a phone number to begin the order, and surprisingly, I still have to ask what his is. I think I don’t know it by heart yet because I’m typing it as he says it and it’s not really like a oh, I have to hear this listening thing. Usually, the conversation is kept super casual and short; how are you, how’s your week so far? For no reason, it’s just what it is. This week was different, he wants to talk.
He wanted to tell me a story. He says he doesn’t know why he wants to share it, but he does. So, he begins….
James is a counselor at an addiction rehabilitation institute up the street. Figures; I can see him being successful at that due to kind soul and calming demeanor. One night when he was in ordering his pizza, he saw a client from the rehab at the bar. He didn’t think anything of it. He did take note this person was drinking out of a solid Pepsi cup. Which, in the restaurant world, that means it’s safe to assume you’re not having an alcoholic beverage. So, they exchanged the soft hello to one another. James, doing what I do (his words), order my pizza, stand in this spot, check my phone and KENO, and just patiently wait. The client makes a point to say, while James is off-duty and not really worrying about this client or about anyone else for that matter, Don’t worry, I’m behaving. This is just a soda. James slightly brushes it off. Again, he sees it’s a normal cup, nothing too noteworthy or out of the ordinary. If there was, he would have to make a choice to intervene either now or later. So James, doing what I do, continues back to waiting, phone, KENO. From where he stands, he has a clear eye and ear shot of this client. So, again, the client dares to say to his bartender, kind of in a way to let James hear, see, I’m behaving right?? looking for approval and agreement. Bartender responds, saying ya, well I mean you’ve only had one shot.
Ouch. Way to turn the ship, huh? The client was suddenly extremely embarrassed. I said to James, everything happens for a reason. It was silly of him to even ask his bartender that question, in that way, knowing she could have easily and unknowingly sold him out. What I think happened here was the client was low-key asking for help. He was making it known he is still struggling without directly asking for it. The conversation hit home with me, the foundation being about addiction. James went on to say that there will never be any shame of asking for help, and there’s no shame about relapsing either as it is a very difficult thing to overcome. He applied his effort, but wasn’t able to go all the way. And that’s fine. James was meant to run into him and overhear that conversation, and now he can receive the help he is looking for. I definitely think the client was asking for help without voicing it himself, and at the end of the day I think everyone should know there is strength in seeking help when and where you need it. It also just struck a cord with me that he and I never have conversations like this, so the one time we did this was the nature of it. It was important.
Shortly after, here comes take 2. I get a phone call for a take-out order. The phone was breaking up so badly, I asked her if she could call back. She did, didn’t get much better so she went outside where it was clearer reception. She said, make it for seven. It was about quarter past 6 PM, so it all fell into place. About 15 minutes later, in comes a man for a take-out order. I think it’s under my wife’s name. I cut him off – Karen? He says yes. I say okay, she did say make it for 7 so it’ll probably be done in about 20-25 minutes. He said noooo, no, no. My name is Seven. Ohhhhhhhhhh…… okay, let me go tell the kitchen. So sorry about that. There was a communication error, her phone kept breaking up so all I heard her say was to “make it for 7” and you have a different, unique name so I would never thought she was speaking of a person. He understood, confirmed that she does have terrible service when in the house. Fine, over and done with. No problem.
He asks me about the tattoo on my shoulder. Love yourself first in Arabic, I tell him. He asks why, are you Arabic? I give my default response I got it in Arabic because I do think the language reads beautiful, I just think it’s very pretty to read as to where if I got it in English or Portuguese, my second language, it would have been kind of boring and you most likely wouldn’t have asked. So, I think it looks pretty and it also sparks a conversation like this. Furthermore, he asks why the phrase love yourself first? Default response again: because I think it’s important as hell. As a female, I had to love myself first or I was never going to make it in this world. To love someone, you have to feel it within yourself first. To feel loved, you have to recognize it within yourself first. We begin with us. It’s just a strong concept I think, you either agree or you don’t. He felt the impact, praised me for it. I asked if he had any tattoos, and yes he did. He has his wife’s eyes on the back of his neck. Interested, I like detailed ink, so I asked if I could see it. He gave the OK, but wanted to step aside away from the public to show me, as he had to take his sweatshirt off to see it better. So, we did. He also has a dragonfly on his forearm, matching his wife. He got the back of neck/eyes tattoo because my wife always watches my back. He dealt with a very complicated, nasty breakup before his wife, and she has held him down regardless. He went on to tell me that he has a son that he hasn’t been able to see in 8 years (if I remember correctly), he is now 15 y/o, because of his ex. When they broke up, it was complicated enough. He lived in California and then moved to the East Coast. When he was going back to CA to introduce his then-girlfriend to his family, the ex caused a war out of pure spite. She ended up filing restraining orders for false accusations, this, that, and other things, which he is still dealing with. She filed an indefinite restraining order upon him for her and her son until he is 18. The Judge ruled against him, supporting the claim everyone makes that the Judge always sides with the mother/female. Also, because he couldn’t prove he wasn’t doing what she was saying. So, throughout all of this, his wife has always supported him and had his back through these hardships. And that’s why he loves her so much and gets these tattoos in her honor. Seven as his name fits him perfectly, because I think he got pretty lucky (did you know 7 is named to be a lucky number?) in love, despite the shitty reality of not being able to see his son. I learned that love is so damn strong. I seriously wanted to call Karen and let her know that even a stranger can verify that your husband loves the hell out of you. I learned that there is definitely someone out there for everyone. And I am just so happy for Seven he found someone to go through life with. Lol, seriously. #TeamSeven
Ok, last but not least. Paola.
Paola was, honestly, a foreign beauty. Her hair was done nicely, she was dressed well, rockin’ her red lip. She was filling in for whoever is queen of the female species. Long story short, because if you’ve made it this far then you can only hang on much longer, this interaction was neat. I immediately picked up on the fact that she is a sports fanatic. She came in and ordered on time, timed properly to watch the game coming up. She kept looking at the screen, recalled Celtics were on last night. She played basketball, chess, softball, and track. She won a medal for chess. She is a Biomedical Engineer in Boston, where she also lives. She was born in Peru and has been living in the US for 15 years. She recently went back to Peru and lived for 3 years. She was an extremely educated person. She asked about me, what I do. She knew I was Portuguese by my eyes. I told her I’m a Product Design and Developer, she asked if I went to school. I told her about me, as she told me about her. The conversation was about success and passion. With or without school, you can get where you want to go as long as you have ambition, passion, and goals. Anyone can make it to the top regardless of where their bottom starts. That was the sole ground of conversation; personal growth. She had asked me if I got my current position from school. I told her I went to a trade school, and I asked if she was familiar with what I meant by that. She asked, vocational? I said yes, exactly. I didn’t go to college for what I do, but I started from my bottom and worked my way here with skills and connections. My bottom was where she met me. My boss hired me because he watched me grow in the restaurant as a person and a worker, and knew my educational background. And, I never forgot where my bottom was. I told her about my perks. She told me to never forget where I came from, take my perks as I have them, grow, grow, and grow, and never lose sight of goals because you can make it to whatever you want to be as long as you strive to get there. Know yourself. Know your people. Biomedical engineer didn’t fall in her lap, she had to work hard. It was just a very powerful exchange and I won’t forget it.
3 different people, in 2 hours, in 1 day. Who sent you ?? Who do you work for ??? Mitch Albom??? These separate, inspirational encounters created such a huge impact. I was able to look into someone else’s life, love, and their learning. I took something from all three of them. I was kind of experiencing a bit of unwarranted, minor anxiety early in the shift that I told one of my servers about. And by the time these 3 people had come and gone, I didn’t have an anxious bone in my body. I basically took from them that shit, it’s all good. But these weren’t just bygones or hi and byes, they did trickle down to more than that. I met these people and had these conversations with them for a reason. They were strong, they had a lot of meaning behind them if you have the mentality to make that connection. A little key I think is worth mentioning is that I know their names and faces, and they, too, asked for my name. That made it personal and just like a hey, remember me next time note. It was like a small social exercise that I went through. It leaned me back on to my feet and was able to shift my perspective. And just turning 23, these fundamental values were exceptionally important to be reminded of at this time. The 20s are fun, but it can get blurry. So just when you feel like relapsing on bad habits, just when you think you won’t find what or who you’re looking for, and just when you think you don’t know what to do with your life; come back to this. It’ll always be here for you. I thanked them for coming, I told them to drive safe, I told them I’d hope to see them again. But I mean it. I want to say thank you for talking with me.