“I’m hungry. Can I borrow twinny-five cents for a Little Debbie?” I asked Sandy as I watched her fill a bucket with soap and water.
Sandy picked the bucket up, the muscles in her lean arms pulsing from the effort. “It’s twenty-five. Twen-ty-five,” she emphasized patiently. “Now you say it,” she prompted.
“TWENty-five. Can I borrow twenty-five cents, please?” I asked again.
She set the bucket down, dug into her faded jeans pocket and produced a quarter. “You really need to eat better,” she lectured lightly as she handed me the coin.
“Thanks, Sandy!” I grinned, plucked a Peanut Butter Bar from the shelf and deposited the quarter inside the cash register.
My shift over, I munched on the crispy treat as I watched Sandy begin to wash down cabinets in the back of the store. Her strawberry blond plaits danced as she worked the rag in circular motions over the white cupboard doors.
It was the late 1980s, but Sandy was holding onto the 70s with all she had. By the looks of it, she was in her forties – which seemed old in comparison to my seventeen years. Divorced with a degree in Forestry and a second job there at the convenience store off Interstate 70 to make ends meet, she was quirky and carefree yet she demanded excellence of herself and encouraged it in others.
“Did the boss tell you to do that?” I asked, noticing that she’d worked up a healthy sweat from her labor.
“No, I just saw that it needed to be done so I’m doing it,” she replied matter-of-factly.
I thought about that for awhile. I realized there was a sort of freedom and independence in discovering what needed to be done before being ordered by someone else to do it.
I only worked at the store on weekends, but I resolved to be a good worker like Sandy for those sixteen hours. The following Saturday afternoon, I noticed that the hot dog machine had developed a build-up of crusted on juices from days of turning weenies to plump perfection. I grabbed a bucket, filled it with sudsy water and donned a pair of yellow rubber gloves. I scrubbed the hotdogger until it gleamed, then I placed hot dogs and sausages on the turner and stepped back to survey my handiwork.
“Beautiful!” my supervisor praised. She hesitated as she noticed my hands, still clad in yellow rubber gloves. “Where did you get those?” she inquired.
“In the back room on the shelf,” I pointed.
She looked dismayed. “Harold uses those gloves when he cleans the toilets!”