My favorite bag boy turned 80 a few months ago. He may move at the speed of a gentle breeze but he's still moving. He has Parkinson's disease but has it pretty well under control, moving in short, slightly shuffling steps. He knows how I like my things bagged. He knows I don't like hot weather. When he's there we have a nice chat, particularly if he's working my favorite check out lady's register. I never make him take my things to the car. Few people do, except the very elderly ladies. I keep it even by never letting anyone carry them out. I never help him bag to move things along. I have plenty of time. It's an unspoken camaraderie among the regular patrons. And they are watching. The store was recently bought out. Several new faces showed up. There is a reason some lines are always full while others just get the stragglers.
One of the reasons I shop at my grocery store, instead of "Bright Lights Big City Supermarket" where Middlest actually works, is that I like the quirkiness of my store. The flower lady behind her counter intoning, "Thank you for shopping with us today", like the greeter at a haunted morgue attraction, complete with a strange little smile on her face. My favorite checkout lady, who knows what all my kids are up to. She's been around long enough to be a manager but she seems to prefer check out. Catching up with her regulars. Sometimes they put her on the 'under 10 items' register because everyone flocks to her line and the others are empty. Sometimes I get the other bag boy, who was fired from BLBC Supermarket. He is an articulate and personable young man, extremely courteous and helpful and completely lacking any kind of filter between his brain and his mouth. The other day when I refused his offer of help to the car, my favorite checkout lady said in a pleading voice, Please let him! Get him away from me for a few minutes. : ) There is my second favorite checkout lady who has been there for 35 years and who I know personally enough to know that she used to think people were following her and watching her with cameras. She's in her fifties, She lives with her mother. She's very good at her job. Also the rather bumbling store manager, who sometimes forgets to shave and often seems to be wandering the aisles aimlessly like he's lost. He always asks, "Are you finding everything alright?" I'm sometimes tempted to answer, Yes, have you found your way out of here yet? The other day in the snack aisle I overheard one employee approach another and quietly ask, "Have you seen the mail bag?" "No, Why?" The first replied, "It had the payroll in it." As I traveled through the store the news and questions followed me in frantic whispers. Up front? In the back? Ask so & so. What about...? I sure hope they found it : ) They are under scrutiny. Everyone needs to be on their best game.
I was very pleased last week when I arrived at the register and saw my favorite bag boy, shuffling over as quick as he could to beat 'Filterless'. It has been several weeks since I saw him and I was afraid he might be ill or something had happened to him. I noticed he looked gaunt. He is not a 'little old man.' He has a full head of white hair and is over six feet tall with a large frame and only the slightest slope to his shoulders. This made the new thinness stand out, the skin on his face sagging, his large wrist bones protruding. I was sure he must have been in the hospital. I knew he wasn't on a vacation. I remembered a few years ago when he tried to go off his very expensive Parkinson's medications. His Insurance doesn't cover all of it and he wanted to save money. Within weeks he degenerated to the point of being in a scooter chair and it was a couple of months before he was straightened out enough to return to work. He lives alone. He's a Marine Corp veteran. He doesn't work there because he's bored and wants something to do. As he began pulling bags out I asked, "Where have you been?" I was floored when he answered, "They cut my hours back. I've only been getting about six a week...and they want you to check it on the computer now...I used to be able to call in and find out my schedule....now it's all on the Internet"...his voice trailed off.
My favorite bag boy cannot afford the Internet not to mention a computer to find out when he's supposed to work. He can't afford to work fewer hours. He hasn't lost so much weight because he's been sick. And This.....is scary. This makes me feel angry and powerless. This..is wrong..
UPDATE: I was very touched by the outpouring of concern this post inspired. I wanted to let everyone know that my general busybody-ness and butting into other peoples business, did lead me to find out that though the situation isn't perfect, it's under control. It's still wrong, but for the time being things will be OK. In sweeter news-my bag boy has a new girlfriend- she's adorable!
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