I approach the counter and take a number. It reads 184. I look at the screen “Now Serving 180”. I look around and wonder what everyone around me is possibly thinking. It’s 5:30 pm on a normal weekday after work. What could they be worrying about? Their fears, joys. – I can only imagine.
Then I notice her. She’s on the other side of the counter. She has a fixed smile as if she was faking it, or maybe she was just really happy. She was wiping down the rotisserie oven. She could not be more fixed in this task. Nobody around her seemed to matter. I was the only one that noticed her.
I found myself reaching into her soul somehow through that fixed smile and look. The things she could be thinking. Here she is, possibly in her 70’s, cleaning an oven for minimum wage, wondering where she might have gone wrong. Maybe she was in a happy place. Maybe she was beaten by her husband who passed away which led to her freedom. Maybe she was abused as a child. Maybe she was poor, and now she has something.. Some-thing… Maybe she had lots of money at one point only to experience financial demise for whatever wrong reason. Who knows. All I know is that she has touched me.
I want to say something to her. I want to say something that might make her feel as if someone out here notices she’s doing a heck of a job and smiling at the same time. I often think of where I went wrong in the past 20 years or so. I am sure we all do from time to time. We can track down the bumps and the wrong turns we’ve faced on our roads. I have a book of them. I think if that will be me one day. Maybe I too will be cleaning ovens in my 70’s. Who knows. I have 30 years to wake up and smell the roasted chickens, that’s for sure.
A loud voice — “Number 184?”— “That’s me! Can I have a pound of Boars Head ham thin sliced and a half a pound of Munster cheese, please?”