She doesn’t stop giggling for most of the interview.
Standing there by the soda machine, pushing cups into their place, looking around to see who is watching, she mostly laughs.
She’s nervous, being singled out like this.
But outside, seated in a row against the convenience store wall, the self-described “old men on young bikes” would fill up my entire notebook, if I let them.
“What do you want to know about her? Well, pull up a chair!” they tell me.
The one in the middle, he stretches out his legs, says it’s cause she understands men.
He throws out a few unprintables as well. He looks like he’s 80.
Another, he looks like he’s not paying attention. When he does say something though, he’s clearly thought it through, rehearsed it before giving it air time.
If it weren’t for her?
They wouldn’t be coming here for coffee. They’d go somewhere else.
And she? She can’t stop laughing. She looks like she added makeup for the occasion. But it’s a job she seems to enjoy.
As much as they look forward to her, she keeps an eye out for her cohort of seniors. It’s a self-service place but if they want, she’ll pour their coffee into styrofoam cups for them, carry them out into the morning.
It’s for a story for the weekend, about the people you don’t think of as being important. Just your run-of-the-mill kind of job.
Like the coffee lady at the gas station.
But somehow, without anyone really realizing how, they’ve become one of the most vital people to the organization.
“I’d shut down without him,” one man told me when he recommended one of his employees. “I just wouldn’t be satisfied with anybody else.”
“I don’t even like to think about that!” a grocery-store owner told me when I asked what she’d do when her frozen-foods stocker retired.
Because sometimes it’s not about the title. It’s about the person.
I haven’t written here much this week because most of my hours have gone to them, to calling employers and formatting mini-profiles and asking them questions they’re kind of embarrassed to answer.
I have about 75-inches worth of men and women whose employers say they simply could not do without.
And the ones I’ve spoken to? Well, they make the most mundane of jobs seem important.