By Kim Fernandez

Despite four registers humming at record speed, the pharmacy line had backed up when I joined it the other afternoon. It didn’t take long to identify the holdup–the customer at register two.

Her back and neck curved over her silver, tennis-ball-footed walker in a lopsided C. A felt-and-feathers Sunday church hat, Pendleton plaid skirt, perfectly straight seamed black pantyhose, and instantly identifiable Gucci bag belied what she was doing. Which was screaming. “You took my credit card!”

On the receiving end of the outburst was a 20-something clerk with jet-black, product-slicked hair, big black outline tattoos on his upper arms, and Brooklyn-bred hard consonants, working for what I’m guessing was minimum wage and a 15-minute break every four hours. I shifted uncomfortably in line and focused on my shoes. “You took it! You took my card!”

“May I move your bag over?” asked the clerk in a very soft, teacher voice. The lady stopped shouting and picked it up herself. “See?” he said with a smile. “There’s your card. Right there. Now watch.” And he slid the chip into the reader, showed his customer the total and read it out loud, and guided her hand to the signature line. The he handed her the card back and said, “Make sure you put this back in your wallet, OK?” as he leaned over the counter to tie her bag to the handle of her walker.

She muttered something I couldn’t hear, turned, and started to shuffle away. “Mrs Smith?” called the cashier after her. “Happy birthday, ma’am. We’ll see you soon, OK?”

I’m not sure if he made that customer’s day or not–I’m guessing not–but he sure made mine. I wondered who the mentor was–a parent or a boss or someone else–who taught him such kindness. What a difference they made, and what a difference he’ll make. I’m sure of it.

Kim Fernandez is IPMI’s director of publications and editor of The Parking Professional.