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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

James And His Brethren

Maybe I did not fully appreciate the outsize imprint James made on my life twenty five years ago. He was the unfailingly positive parking lot attendant for a building where I worked in Newark, NJ. Only the most miserable misanthrope could resist his infectious demeanor. I spoke with him nearly every day for the brief time I worked there, asked him his secret, and thought about him regularly years after I was transferred. Then, James slipped my mind.

Not long ago, I began noticing a remarkably attentive and energetic gas station attendant at a WAWA I infrequently patronize. Yesterday, that attendant waited on me. I left my car at the pump, got coffee and returned to settle up. As I handed him my $$ he asked me "How is your day going?" Truth be told, it hadn't been a stellar day to that point, but I answered "fine" anyway and politely asked him the same. His response? "I'm making it terrific." And I believe him.

Pulling away, I made a few resolutions:
* If that attendant is working the next time I get gas at that WAWA, I'm going to learn his name and if he asks, tell him mine. As time goes on, unless I get a weird vibe or it appears I'm giving him the creeps, I'm going to engage him further, maybe learn his story, like I did with James.
* I'm going to be on the lookout for more people like this; my life is richer for them.

When did you last encounter the kind of unbridled positive energy James and his brethren give off?


  1. When I was in San Francisco last year, a cab driver affected me the same way. This young man was 25 years old or so...an age when most bright young men would have been dismayed to find themselves driving a cab. But he approached his job as a driver with the utmost professionalism and at the same time was using it as a networking opportunity. He introduced himself by name, handed me a business card with his picture on it, wore a suit and tie, and engaged me in conversation about my business. At the same time, he provided the very best customer service possible: jumped out of the cab to open the door for me and help me with my luggage, asked if I needed a return ride or a ride the next day, kept the cab spotless. What a positive way to approach what I'm sure will be a temporary career...this young man is definitely cut out for bigger things.

    1. Kim; I loved your story. I also wonder: Are James and his brethren necessarily cut out for bigger things? Or, could it be they are exactly where they are meant to be?

  2. There is a man who works at our local Acme bringing in the carts. His name happens to also be James. He is a man with a friendly smile, special needs, and a desire to connect with people. I enjoy talking with him, and always benefit from his positive outlook. Since this post was written, I have seen James several times, but I wanted to share one time in particular. I was not having such a great day, and so when I arrived at the Acme and saw James was working, I am sorry to say, I tried to avoid James, and snuck into the store! I felt guilty, but thought it was what I needed to do. When I exited the store, guess who was standing at my car? James was there, smile and all, welcoming me, the grumpy mom, out of my misery. We chatted and laughed, and when I got into my car, I realized that James gets it. He understands that we are here to help each other get out of our funk, even when...especially when... that is right where we think we want to stay.


    1. d; I loved the bare honesty of your story and you are on target saying that both of our "James" get it (what a wild coincidence - if the guy at that WAWA is named James that will be really spooky!). My favorite part of your story was the takeaway you got - "...right where we think we want to stay..."- made me cry. Thanks (again) for your frequent and always delightful comments,