Friday, April 18, 2014

You Never Know

I must confess a certain passion for fancy grocery stores. I try to stay away, but my local fancy grocery store draws me there again and again. It was there that I met a bagger I'll call Jason. "Met" implies I know him well. I don't. I know nothing about him at all, aside form the fact that he appears to be developmentally disabled, and, at the risk of sounding a bit of an asshole, he seems very cheerful and happy. Jason has worked there for a long time. I'd guess him to be in his early to mid 20s, blond and good looking.

It seems to me that he likes everyone and everyone likes him. He does a good job. I've never personally witnessed him do anything wrong.

So I was surprised one day when he was bagging my groceries, and the checker just would not stop nagging him to focus and "stop looking over there." I thought he was focusing well enough. I looked over there and saw a pretty girl.

"Jesus. He's got a crush on that girl over there, lady. Would you please stop drawing attention to it and embarrassing him?" I was quite irritated, although it was pure projection. I had no evidence at all that he was embarrassed, and my belief that he had a crush on that girl certainly wouldn't have held up in court, either.

"Jason," she admonished again, "you don't need to be worrying about what's going on over there."

Jason didn't seem bothered at all, just smiled and tried to keep looking on one direction (something I myself could never do). It's entirely possible that no one was offended but me.

When he was done, the checker told me, "Jason will help you out to your car."

I was once a grocery bagger myself, and I know helping people out to their cars is no imposition. It's a welcome change of scene. But even knowing what I know, I absolutely loathe being helped to my car. I cannot stand the awkward, 45-second walk. So I weakly protested, but either they didn't hear me, or they pretended not to.

On my next visit, I happened to come through the same checker's line again. This time, Jason was more excited than I had ever seen him. He looked like he might actually jump out of his skin with joy. Generally a pretty smily person, on the day in question he couldn't have stopped beaming if he'd tried.

He asked me what I had planned for that night, but it was just a pretext for him to tell me about his plans. It was The Mariners' opening day. While he told me all this, he continued to bag my grocers, again doing what I felt was a fine job. Once again, the checker nagged him to focus, and once again, it seemed to have no impact on his mood at all, only mine. Jason was still walking on air.

I bristled, and considered intervening, or even calling the manager later to complain. Once again, when we were done, the checker said, "Jason will help you out to your car." It was more of an order than an offer, and directed at me as much as him.

"No, I'm fine, I can manage," I protested.

"Let him take your groceries to your car," and, since I obviously needed it spelled out for me, "This is a good job for him to have. If he has nothing to do, they'll let him go."

Oh. Oh.

While I'd been a missionary-style busy body, she'd been trying to protect him all along. Was she going about it correctly? I can't say. But I can say that my meddling would not have done anyone a bit of good. At best, it would have done nothing, but at worst, I cringe. I didn't know him, I didn't know her, and I didn't know a damn thing about what was up.

The point is, you never know.

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