Every now and then, I think about my first job – as a cashier at Harry’s Farmers’ Market in Alpharetta, GA. I don’t count the two summers of babysitting, which were a freaking nightmare. This was a real job. And I loved it. Strangely, I still dream sometimes that I have to pick up a shift there, or that I’m going back there full-time. And that’s always stressful because it wore me out as a teenager – I can’t imagine how hard it would be now.
I loved the work, though. And the people – both colleagues and customers. I was thinking about this last night when I couldn’t sleep. I thought I might share with you now. Here are three “regulars” I remember pretty vividly – or not – we’ll see.
Thomas K. – Truthfully, I don’t remember how I started chatting with him – I would have been 17, 18? I remember I was driving age because he did car detailing for a living, and I told him about my fancy 1984 Pontiac Sunbird. If I was working the outside register (plants and things) he would come lean on the little kiosk that held my register. He was from New Jersey. Imagine Spiccoli from Ridgemont High, but grown up, and maybe a little more of an adult. He was often a little sunburned. His nose had been broken at some point, and he had heavy eyebrows and sunbleached hair (short).
He was handsome, but I don’t recall it being anything but a friendly chat when he stopped by. I genuinely don’t think he had any agenda except that he was friendly and nice. Who knows? Maybe he thought I was cute. Maybe my precociousness paired with his boyishness evened each other out. I had no romantic notions about him, and I really don’t think he had any about me. He was about 30. Once, he came by with his mother and sister who were in town, and he introduced me to them. They were nice, as well. I don’t know what happened to him. I can’t find him on Linked In or Facebook, etc. He would be about sixty now, I guess. But he was always friendly, and good for killing ten minutes on a quiet day.
Julie – Her name might not have been Julie, but that’s what I remember her as. She was rail thin. Like, you might peg her as anorexic. Or she was just incredibly thin. She had the look of a runner. But she always wore jeans, and keds, and t-shirts. She was really pretty. She was not mine exclusively – she was kind of a fixture – she came late in the evening, just before closing – to catch some deals from salad and hot food bar to feed her aging (and implied infirm) parents. She was not frail, but frail looking. She was friendly and nice to all of us. I’m sure other people who checked her out regularly knew a little more about her. But we all kept an eye out for her. She was probably in her mid-twenties or early thirties. She had long, blond hair in a pony tail. I don’t recall any of the male cashiers having a thing for her, but she was someone you wanted to come to your register, because you knew it would be a pleasant exchange. She was a fixture long after I left, as far as I know.
Friday Night Hatchback Man -FNHM – I never knew his name. Every Friday, about 2 or 3 hours before close, he would park his car – a yellow hatchback, older – either a VW or Toyota, maybe – and he would work his way inside. His legs were paralyzed, and he used the type of canes that had arm braces on them – the kind you’d think of with polio – at least, that was my though. In hindsight, it could have been any number of things, but yeah – my thought was always polio, just because he was old enough that the 1940s polio scare would have been in his lifetime.
Anyway, he would work his way around the store, check out, and would be packing up to go as we closed up for the night. I got the feeling it wore him out. I never rang up his order. I never even talked to him – but there were summers when I worked outside and I could set a clock to his Friday arrival. Since I never knew his name, I couldn’t say what happened to him, but I was always impressed with him and his stamina to drag himself through the store to get some good food.
There were others. Hector, The Grapefruit Mathematician, Melted Orange Crayons, Sgt. F… some other time, though.