Years ago, I read about an elderly Indiana farmer who had recently died. He was a bachelor who rarely traveled far from his farm, but when they went through his possessions, they found he had kept a list of everyone he met throughout his entire life. The list had over two thousand entries, all brief, such as “Doris, waitress at the Dew Drop Inn.”
If someone as isolated as he met two thousand people in his lifetime, how many would I have? Ten thousand? Maybe. I wish I had started a similar list back in my school days. All of you would be on it, all of my teachers, college classmates and professors, the waitress at the Penn State Diner who served those grilled sticky buns, the forgotten coworkers at each place I had worked. All of the people that were once important to me. It would be fascinating to read.
I would most like to be reminded of the hundreds, if not thousands, of clerks and cashiers who had only tangentially brushed my life but whose pleasant and cheerful attitudes to relative strangers lubricated the rough points of life. Looking back, most, but far from all, were women. Women seem more inclined to live in the moment and make even menial jobs as pleasant and fulfilling as possible. Many I knew were secretaries and office workers, helpful, behind-the-scenes, go-to people who kept the company running. Add them all up and they were a lot of people and a lot of pleasant moments.
Today, I count among these Alice, the receptionist at the center, Miss Church, my meter-reader who will soon be replaced by an electronic device, the Indostani men and women at our local Dunkin’ Donuts, the cashier at Lowe’s and the other cashier at Super G; Joanne, the Marcus Hook SEPTA station manager, the SEPTA conductor who entertained everyone all the way to Philadelphia with his banter, and, surprisingly, the inspector guy at the Motor Vehicle Department. You never know where they will be.
Thank you all, even those I have forgotten.