She had just finished dealing with a bunch of drunk guys who swung by to pick up more beer. She had been standing her post for over nine hours and her eyes conveyed her exhaustion. I could tell she was counting the minutes to the end of her shift, ready to head home and delve into dreamland. But she had a job to do, she had bills to pay, her face was void of any smile and her seriousness was evident in her demeanor. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her – not because she was unhappy, but because she was neither adequately acknowledged nor truly thanked nor appreciated for what she did. She was used to the fake hellos and the fake thank yous; she knew that they didn’t care, they were in their own rush to get on with their lives, and yet she wished them back with a genuine smile at even the late hour. It was not exactly the profession she would have chosen, but her options had narrowed over time and she had given into dealing with reality head on. When I commented on how tired she looked, her response was immediately sarcastic. But as we joked about the drunk guys who had just stumbled out, I couldn’t help but notice that she had a beautiful smile; it was just hiding beneath that veneer of seriousness. Unfortunately, that was all I could do for Megan – one weak smile; but I do hope that she has something to look forward to when she heads home from the local Ralphs’.
As I was telling a good friend, I feel lucky. Not because of what I have or not have, but for the wonderful people that I can call my friends. From the college gang who are still some of the best friends I’ve had, to the LA gang who I’ve grown to love so quickly, to all the people that I work with who make every day fun and interesting, to the good friends from childhood and different schools that are scattered all over the world yet so close by, to the old navy friends from India that are still in touch thanks to the wonders of social networking sites. Most people when asked about friends will count into the hundreds very quickly; the six degrees of separation rule doesn’t even hold water in this connected world. Of course we are all thankful for the people that we form extended relationships with, but what about the wonderful people that we don’t necessarily brand as friends. The ones that we transact with sparingly at most. The ones that we normally ignore if not for what they provide or how they serve us.
The girl who I rented my condo from who writes me about her wonderful experiences in the middle east. The starbucks girl who knows exactly what I drink on different days of the week. The el salvadorian janitor who teaches me a spanish word every day.Â The guy who suggests the best curries at the indian take out place. The one girl who I actually adore that has a big laugh but the composure of an oak. The guy who calls me a teenager every time I shave. The guy who mans the reception at the gym and always wants to talk about the lakers. The girl at the pastry place that knows what goes into my salad. The guard at my gate who always has a joke to tell. The punjabi guy at the gas station that can never stop talking. The mexican girl at the taco place who knows my burrito just the way I like it. The indian lady at the post office that has the same name as me. The skinny kid who delivers my newspaper and never smiles. My landlord’s mom who referred me to the good charities to volunteer for. The Indian girl in my building who is ever so elusive. The coordinator at the badminton court who always hooks me up with the good players. The teller at my local bank who wants to visit India this year. And finally Megan, who draws the strength to smile to her customers even at 11.30 in the night.
To all of you, whose names I know but withheld and all of you that I forgot to mention, I thank you. I hope more people will treat you as a person rather than a job position. You put yourself out there to serve complete strangers, and yet you never expect anything in return except your paycheck in the evening. For that I express my gratitude. You make our lives whole and you fill in the voids that we can’t by ourselves.Â And though we are not friends per se, and though we are not acquiantances per se, you are still a big slice in the small pie that is my life.