I’m terrible at bagging groceries. I look like I have a third elbow that I’m trying to coordinate into the mix of hands, arms, those infernal plastic bags, and the items that come flying across the counter at me.
I’m gradually getting better at it thanks to good advice and experience. Also, there’s Richard, who inspires me.
He often bags for me when I’m working the register, and he’s truly a force to behold. He moves faster than anyone I know and when I work with him, I move faster too. We make an impressive team, with the customers often marveling at our speed and efficiency. And we’re the two oldest guys in the store, which gives me enormous satisfaction and I have to stifle the urge to stick out my tongue at the young ones.
We compared ages the other day. Richard is sixty-four. And as I’ve said enough times to become tedious, I’m nearly sixty. I told him that he moves like a younger man and he said the same of me, which is what old people tell each other when they’re not comparing aches and pains.
Richard is handsome, Haitian, and charms the children, men, and especially the ladies while he moves at lightning speed. He switches quickly from French to Spanish to English to engage with customers. He’s not the only multilingual worker at our store.. I myself speak English, a little bit of Spanish, and a few remnants of Pig Latin.
To improve my own bagging skills, I started channeling Richard a bit, and it helped. However, I caught myself speaking with a French accent and I sound more like Pepe Lepew than Richard, so I stick with my normal Redneck West Texas dialect.
One evening we served a vacationing family who noted how fast we two old guys were. They were especially appreciative of how accommodating Richard was—he retrieved a balloon for the child, presenting it to her as if she was a visiting princess. He stepped away for a moment and the dad commented on how wonderful Richard was.
“If you got a minute, sir,” I said, “perhaps you could step over to customer service and mention that Richard did a good job for you.”
And that’s just what he did. Whenever a customer takes the trouble to commend a worker by name to management, the worker gets a free sub sandwich (actually half a sandwich, but it’s nice). I also got a sandwich because good things happen when you hang with quality folks.
If I was still a preacher, I would probably ruin the flow of this narrative by offering five points on how to be a good example at work. instead, I encourage you to notice some of the amazing people that work at your grocery store… like Richard.