09 September 2012

Sara and Randy

If you met Sara, you’d like her right away. She has a round, open face you see a lot in the Midwest, a German-Irish face. She’s not outgoing, but if you say hi to her as she’s ringing up your lunch, she’s happy to chat about her dog walking business or the weather.

Pretty. But not too pretty. The kind of pretty won't intimidate or frighten a man just past his prime. 

So Sara the cashier has a fan club. Guys, mostly in their 40s and 50s, linger around her register if there’s no one in line, and use the chance to bask in the glow of her wide smile and agreeably simple banter.

Randy, on the other hand, doesn’t have a fan club. He rides the same bus I do from the same stop. He's tall, and permanently hunched over, probably from coding for the last 30 years or so with bad posture. He's the sort of semi-autistic programmer who has a hard time socially. 

He seems smart and he reads a lot, but he's incapable of talking about much besides the weather. Day after day we’d wait at the bus stop, talking the weather. At least he chats, I thought; it could be worse -- days waiting for the bus with long pauses as we both pretend to read email on our phones. Instead, we debate the forecast. Not so bad. I tried out a few questions, but only received short answers as he smiled his usual smile.  

Randy worked as a contract programmer for about seven or eight months, then got laid off. I found out a few mornings ago. We got off the bus together at our stop, as usual. He looked more ragged, wearing a frayed t-shirt instead of his usual Ralph Lauren Polo. 

We walked to one of the office entrances, talking about the temperature. When we were nearly there, he said that he'd been laid off. I asked why, but he said his agreement prevented him from talking about it. We paused.  

"I just wanted to let you know," he said. 

"Are you going in?"

"Nope. All done. I'm just going to take the bus downtown." The he asked me if I'd do him a favor. I said sure, sort of dreading something time consuming, but figuring that everyone needs help once in a while. It might be my turn next. So what the hell.

"You know Sara, the cashier, right?" I nod. "Can you tell her?"


"Please say goodbye to her. Tell her Randy says goodbye -- could you do that for me?"

"Yeah, of course." 

We shook hands. 

He loped off without even taking my email.

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