I met a tall rail thin man with long white hair and a beard. Probably in his nineties. He was headed home to partake of a walleye that he caught. It was a big one too, he said, and he was very happy with himself. Of course, fishing around here is nothing like it used to be, he explained, and he told me that he remembered a time when he would tell his wife that he was headed out to get supper, and he would go ahead and do just that. There's no guarantee of that, not anymore. Sometimes he comes home empty handed. But he'd caught a walleye, and he was headed home to cook it, happy as could be. He was still talking away as he strode to the door in his raggedy old jacket torn through in several places. He doesn't freeze his walleye, not ever, he tells me. He cooks it and eats it fresh and there is no finer eating. "Well," I told him, if you ever get too many to eat all at once, you just remember where I work then," and he laughed hard. He can put away some walleye, he lets me know. When he was a younger man, he'd go fishing. He'd come home with his catch, and he and his wife would cook it up and people would come in, and they'd still be eating fresh cooked fish at 2 in the morning. That is one truly, truly contented man, and I was pleased to meet him.
Not long after that, another man came in, and here's the funny thing. He looked sort of like my fisherman friend. This man worked on a dairy farm, and had probably come straight in from the barn. (Lots of folk do...farmers are busy.) We're supposed to greet customers as they come in the door, so I called out 'Hi!' as he walked in. He swept by without a word. Without even a look, for that matter. He came back up with a pulley, and he paid for it, without a word. I thanked him, and wished him a good day. He never looked, he never spoke. Out the door he went. It made me wonder what sort of a life he'd had, to be like that. I also wondered how long it had been since he spoke at all.
A big burly fellow came in. Red faced, blue eyed. Probably 60. He was thanking us for a donation we'd made for a fundraiser he and a horse group had done for St. Jude's. He had a certificate. They'd raised over $3800 and he was glad. He was just as quick to say that it had been a group effort, that it was a result of many people working together. I told him, "Don't hesitate to stop by the next time you do something like that. Tractor Supply prides itself on being a store that gives back." I pointed out the manager to him. He was a bit nervous because he had a very expensive saddle in the back of his pickup that he was repairing for someone. He was afraid it would be stolen. I assured him that I'd keep my eye on it. So off he went. Soon he was striding back up to the front of the store. His boots stopped at the Leanin' Tree card display. He looked through them and then he was back at my counter with a wedding card. "Going to a wedding?" I asked him. And he said that he was. I can't remember exactly what he said, but I mistook it to mean that he was getting married. I congratulated him, heartily, and he said, embarrassed, "No...no. Not me! He paused, flustered. "I'm not married...I mean...well...I don't know what I am, exactly, but maybe one day...I'd like to get married one day." He tucked that card inside his Carhartt, pulled his hat down, and out the door he went.
Early in the morning, fellow came in, quiet guy. Things were still slow. I was stocking candy and we got to blabbing too. He said it was his birthday. "Really!" I said, "Now what are you going to do about that?" He didn't know exactly, but he'd decided to buy himself some warm socks and a new Carhartt sweatshirt, because he works outside and it's getting cold. But joking around, he said, "So, because it's my special day, you're going to sing happy birthday right?" Just kidding around. Little did he know. He took his good old sweet time shopping and the store was a bit busier by the time he got up to the counter, but I sang him the birthday song. He wasn't expecting it and he stood there a little surprised. The other customers looked amused. He thanked me, and said, "You know, I honestly don't think that anyone has sung happy birthday to me since I was a kid." He stood there thinking. "No I really don't think they have." He walked out the door saying, "That was sure nice!" and he was happy too.
I met three couples traveling together, and they were well to do. Not rude, but definately aloof. They were looking around the store. I think that we were a bit of a novelty. They were having fun looking at the Christmas decorations and things. They bought quite a bit, between the six of them. One man was buying a Schleich dragon, for his daughter who had just begun college at Drexel. He and his crew were definately from a different world than me, but in his world, just like mine, they are proud of their kids, and inside, I smiled to know that we had something in common.
All day long I met people and talked. The dogs came. Scooby the Newfie. A mastiff. Thor the Great Dane. Greta the golden, all mudded up. I petted dogs and gave them their cookie. I called kids 'pippersqueakers' which almost always makes them laugh. There were young folks, and old folks, and middle aged folks like me. One of those customers walked out the door, and he said, "God love ya. I hope you don't EVER change."
I do like my job. It doesn't matter how dumb I feel at school, or how overwhelmed I feel at the busy-ness of my life, I can go to work, and it's almost always like a break, a breath of fresh air. I do so love that job.