Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tony's puts a pin in my heart (again)

There's a new bag boy at my grocery store. I'm not gonna lie: He looks a lot more like the roughnecks that hang out on our corner than a kid who just got his first job at the A & P. A scowling aloofness. Random scars from a history of stitches. Sometimes a band-aid at his temple or neck.

Here we go, I thought, the first time he stood at the end of my line. Tony's' core mission doesn't always jive with canvas bags -- affordable goods and local hiring are purpose enough -- so I tend to expect a learning curve, especially with a new guy. Eggs on the bottom of the bag. Milk carton sheathed in double plastic before it goes into the canvas.

But not with this kid.

He's bagged my groceries three times now, and he's strategic about it -- heavy items packed together in one bag, fragile bread and tomatoes in another. He approaches my hand-pulled grocery cart like a game of Tetris. No wasted space, no chance of spillage. And he's gentle. He cradles my bananas in his palm, then places them tenderly into the cart. I'm always sure to thank him -- not too cloyingly -- just a quick, "Hey thanks a lot." And he always wishes me a good day, like he genuinely cares that I don't step in a puddle or lose my keys on the walk home.

Yesterday, as I unpacked the week's haul, I discovered a dented box of water crackers. A tactical misstep along the way, I guess. But how could you begrudge this kid a handful of broken crackers? He clearly needs a break, and that's a molecule of kindness I could offer.

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