Remembering Sam

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I like chicken biscuits for breakfast. Around here, the best chicken biscuits for my money are to be had at one of the local chain gas station / store / deli / video stores. For five years, at least three or four times a week, I’d stop at the Spinx on state highway 418 and grab a biscuit and a Diet Pepsi Max on my way to school. Every morning for five years, except one week when he was on vacation, Sam checked me out. He was the store manager and a really neat guy. He was slightly build with an unruly shock of dark brown hair and a mustache and goatee to match. Kind brown eyes peered out behind “birth control” glasses.

Every morning as I left, we told each other to have a good day. It was a comforting morning ritual. Then in June, I lost my librarian job and I didn’t have a chance to go by and get a chicken biscuit or talk to Sam. Yesterday, I went down to Mama’s and since it was early enough, I stopped by Spinx to get a biscuit and see Sam. He wasn’t there but I recognized one of the cashiers so I asked her if Sam had the day off.

She looked at me very sadly and said, “Hon, Sam got sick and passed away in January.” I nodded and thanked her for checking me out. Then I went out to my car, pulled over to the end of the parking lot and cried for a stranger who wasn’t a “perfect” stranger, but just one of the hundreds of people I’ve met in service jobs who seem genuinely cut out to make the world a bit better place.

I looked up his obituary when I finally got home and saw where he’d had a small memorial service here and then he’d been taken home to his favorite Tennessee mountains to be buried. Sam was gone and I hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye. Just one more thing losing my job has taken from me.

So don’t wait to thank the people on the fringes of your life if they make your day brighter. Thank your regular waitress or grocery store cashier. Have a quick chat at the bank if you still use a regular teller. It’s amazing to me how someone I thought had such a small part in my life could leave such a big hole when they were gone.

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