I walked down the road to talk with John today. No business- it’s warm weather, and I don’t need anything dry-cleaned at the moment.
John has worked behind the counter at our neighborhood dry cleaner and laundry for about four years now. You’d be impressed with the way he remembers everyone’s name and family members after only a visit or two. I’ll bet he knows some gossip, but I don’t hear it from him. If you are paying attention, you can tell that John is smart as soon as he opens his mouth.
While he kept sorting, tagging, and entering data, I asked him some questions about his life, and I sketched him on my i pad. He has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, but I never met him until he appeared behind the counter.
I don’t think that John would mind my telling you that he is a person who might be quickly discounted by the movers-and-shakers who are so prevalent in our town. He has long, graying hair tied back in a pony-tail, a weathered face, and his mouth has not been in contact with an orthodontist recently. But, it’s your loss if you overlook this man in your rush to drop off or pick up your laundry.
I had heard from him before that he served in the Navy, and when I asked him again today, he told me that he was in intelligence and in the Navy Seals, working for the government for 22 years. When I commented, “Go, Seals!”, he responded, “I’m so happy I could just about spit! And nobody got hurt!”. We were referring, of course, to the Seal team which infiltrated the hiding place of Osama bin Laden and killed him, but that’s a topic for another day. (I certainly don’t feel like gloating over someone’s death.)
John looks fit and strong, and now I know that he rides his bike at least 10 miles every day, and 50 miles on the weekends. He gardens- growing tomatoes this year, and building water features and tending water plants, and loving his house plants.
He is on his third computer while writing the fictionalized account of his life. Twice now he has experienced a computer ‘melt down’, losing all his work. But, on the current computer, he is about 3/4 finished with his story. For awhile, he had a publisher interested in the book, but not now; he is looking for another publisher these days, a common story among writers.
John used to run a bar. And, what did he do with the proceeds? Why, he funded an operation that provided resources for women who were falling through the cracks- not eligible for any assistance programs, but who needed help until they could get back onto their own feet. He told me that he really enjoyed that work.
John also ran a company which provided temporary security for visiting dignitaries. ‘Glorified babysitting’ he called it. He’d pick up the person from the airport, deliver him to a destination, then return the person to the airport, usually the same day. I don’t think you’d really want to mess with the visitor if John were hovering near. John’s statement about this company is that it eventually went ‘bust’. John retired. But, not quite.
Loving to do woodworking, John was doing some fittings for the owner of the dry-cleaner. This eventually became a facilities fix-it and clerk job for John. I did not ask John how he likes working for the dry cleaning business, but I can tell they have a gem in John.
I hope that book gets published, don’t you? Even if he makes up every scrap of the story, I can imagine that he has the experience and the imagination to make it riveting.
So, who works behind the counter in your neighborhood?