Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unexpected Connections

One of the perks of a sales and service career is that you get to interact with a lot of different people.  Since I've been in a few different sales territories throughout my almost five year stint, I have to say that some offer a little more variety, spice, and colorful characters than others.  Yes, I've got one of those and I love it.  As with any experience though, there are certain people that we naturally bond with more than others.  So when it's time to let go because they're moving on, it can feel as though a hole is opening up somewhere inside of your spirit.

"S" and I have only known each other for a few months.  I remember the first day she started working at the Conoco station.  It's my second to last account on Mondays and Thursdays, so by the time I get there I'm exhausted, a little dizzy, and muttering my favorite on the job saying of "it's time for a drink" for everyone to hear.  Luckily, this account is one of many that lets me pick and choose "free" food and drinks if I so wish.  Sometimes you've got to forget about the girly figure and go ahead and indulge in those mini-pizzas and heavily caffeinated beverages.

I knew I liked "S" from the moment I laid eyes on her.  For starters, she was like a real-life version of Rory Gilmore's best friend.  You know, the one with the glasses, pigtails, and who liked to play drums and rebel against her strict, traditional mother.  Plus, she had on two different bright colored socks and when an awful rendition of Mellow Yellow came over the loudspeakers, she said "ok, I think I'm about to drown out his mellow yellow."  For the past two months "S" and I have laughed, joked, and had a few heart to hearts.  She's certainly brought some fun and life into what could be an otherwise dreadful experience.  I will miss her, but one can't work at gas station wages forever.  Especially when there's kids at home.  Besides, we'll still run into each other here and there at a few of my other stores.  I'm happy that she got what she wanted.

When I worked at Disney World under the College Program, one of my managers, whose name also began with an "S," quickly became one of those influences that you never forget.  She wasn't the direct supervisor I was assigned to, but she was one of five in "Merchandise Area 28," otherwise known as The Muppet Courtyard.  She was one of those managers that jumped in and did whatever they could to help.  She was also one of those managers that you knew truly cared about you, because she asked whenever she got the chance.  One night we were supposed to all have a nice dinner as a work group at the restaurant next door known as "Mama's."  As we were closing down one of the stores, "Stage One," she asked me if I was going.  I said "yes."  She said "good," as she passed by.  I didn't make it because I made the mistake of going back to the student apartments to change and the shuttle service couldn't make it back to MGM in time.  The next day she asked "where were you last night?"  She had been genuinely concerned, and it showed.

I had the opportunity to help her once.  It had been a busy day in the park, the stores in the area were a mess and she needed extra help.  She asked one of the other "CP" girls who was directly assigned to her to stay later.  The girl said no because she had plans to go out that evening to Pleasure Island.  I could see that "S" was upset, frustrated, and a little overwhelmed.  I told her I had finished what she had asked me to do and if there was anything else she needed.  She paused, and then asked "how about staying a little later?"  I didn't hesitate.  I replied firmly, "of course.  What do you need?"  Sighing in a mixture of relief and gratitude, the only words she said were "keep doing what you're doing."  She didn't know it, but for some reason, I would've done anything to help her.  She was just that kind of beautiful person on the inside that made you stop in your tracks and say "I'd like to get to know this soul." 

Before I left to go back home, I gave her a card expressing my appreciation for what she did for all of us on a daily basis, along with a small gift representing her alma mater of Florida State.  I still remember the smile of tears that welled up in her eyes, her voice saying "thank you," and "come here," and the hug that we gave each other.  She even offered to help me look for apartments in Lakeland when she found out I was going to move there.  I still have her number, but I haven't called.  I guess a part of me feels like it's been too long since we last talked.   

Although the passage of time can be a funny thing.  The other night I logged into Facebook and accepted a friend request from someone I went to high school with.  I recalled the name and the face.  It was actually someone I had thought about a long time ago, but just in one of those passing thoughts.  You know, the brief ones of "I wonder whatever happened to so and so."  The strange thing is, I think she remembers me a lot more strongly than I remember her.  She somehow found me, even though my current profile picture is of the sunset I watched go down along the shores of Maui over a year ago.  Most of my info is locked, so she must've had my name burned in her memory somewhere.  She said she was so excited to have found me.  I think she was one of the girls who got pregnant our senior year and ended up keeping the baby.  I also think she was one of the students that participated in a weekly peer support discussion gathering that we simply called "Group."  It was facilitated by a professional counselor, whom I recall was a great source of strength to all of us. 

I told "H" she has a beautiful family, and it's true.  Her daughter is all grown up now.  She has a wonderful life from what I can see.  I don't remember our high school conversations or what I might've said or done to affect her, but I'm humbled that I might have.  Maybe I was one of the few who listened or wasn't judgmental or offered some piece of insight she found helpful.  I don't know yet, but I'm sure I'll rediscover it eventually.  It doesn't really matter, of course.  I'm just grateful that I was able to help in some way. 

The Universe is funny in the way that it can bring us back to old connections that we might need, exactly when we might need them.  She told me she loved the pictures I took in May and that I would have to let her know the next time I'm in the area.  I told her I may be there soon, on a more permanent basis this time.  She said that would be wonderful and she's hoping that I get good news.

I'm just smiling at the fact that I may get to be friends again with someone that I shouldn't have lost touch with in the first place.  One can never really put a price on the value of rediscovered friendship or the gift of mutual support.          


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