Deja Vu For The Soul

The dishwasher–an older, shy fellow–peeked around the corner, looking down, then up, then at her, then back down. “Hi, Eddie,” she whispered. “Hi,” he stammered and rushed back around the corner to the safety of his sink. Now the owner returned. I looked into my coffee cup and thought, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …” and sure enough she said, “So, you wanna come back for a couple months this summer, Donna? We could use ya.” Donna nodded slowly, as if she had just then considered the idea, and said, “Yeah. Yeah, I could do that.” The manager said to give her a call when she got home and settled, and Donna said she would, and with that she hugged everyone again and left.

Groundhog Day

I sat there, dumfounded. Except for the faces and the names, this was exactly the routine I had performed 25 years ago. It was incredible. I said nothing more because my poor wife is so sick of me having an observation about everything, and I didn’t want to burden her with another, so we went to the bowling alley with Sam.

After we obtained our shoes and bowling balls, I went back to the counter to order some root beers. As the owner drew the sodas, a young man came in with his hands stuffed in his pockets and a rather independent look in his eye. He smiled at the owner, who did a double take, and said (of course), “Well, if it isn’t JoeCollege making his triumphant return!” He called to a couple people in the back room, and I grabbed my beverages and ran. It was happening again. What was this, Groundhog Day? But then, as quickly as I was alarmed, I was comforted.

Lessons For Life

At the present time, when we human beings sometimes complain how nothing is permanent and how even the simplest things are fleeting, I discovered this homey, small-town, continuing event that probably happens all over the country. Those part-time jobs we all did as kids were really our first exposure to the adult world.

We hear the chatter today of co-workers who have had challenging lives. They are the cooks, janitors, dishwashers and waitresses who are now older, who probably planned at one point to be doing more with their lives, but it didn’t work out. Perhaps they were set back by a lack of money, a bad marriage, a sick child, an ailing parent–whatever the case, we see a side of life that’s char-broiled, not protected, sanitized or edited by Mom and Dad. We may see them cry after a life-altering phone call, or celebrate a child’s graduation with the hope that their kid will never have to work like they do. We see the drama of real life.

The young female workers may have to handle the advances of a drunken man, and the young men may have to deal with the anger of a dissatisfied customer, but these are experiences that teach real-life lessons tenfold. It is that period when we learn the value of money, the consequences of not “getting a break” or making poor decisions, or perhaps deciding that we like and feel comfortable in this small oasis, where we want to stay.

The career path may start and stop right there. In any event, we leave our mark as kids on those doors, and return looking for some confirmation that we were missed, and while we were there, we mattered. Summer approaches as I pen this essay. The kids will be coming home to their part-time jobs like the swallows to Capistrano. Welcome them. Tip large. Say thanks and give them something to take back to school, like a smile, a vote of confidence and all the little things that matter big.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail

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