A simple incident remembered after half a century helped stop a flood of tears today. A long closed door was opened.
When I was in Jr. High and High School I worked in a grocery store. It was hard work at the time and I was paid 45 cents an hour, finally making it to 60 cents my last year. I learned much in the store, not so much about groceries but about people. The owner of the store was a serious man who ran a tight ship and tolerated no foolishness. Many of the people, I see today, working in similar jobs, who are unwilling to help the customer or don’t seem to care would be fired in an instant by my old boss.
One of my main jobs was to stock the store on Tuesday evenings after the arrival of the grocery supply truck. I did this along with a fellow schoolmate. We were left in the store alone and locked in for our job. We didn’t dare open the door until the boss returned at the end of the evening. Only he had a key.
We must have been the fastest stockers in the world. The store aisles would be filled with empty boxes at the end of the evening when we finally drug home to bed. We would take one short break to grab a piece of bologna from the meat counter and open a can of peaches for our evening meal.
One evening we decided to step out back for a moment to drain the juice from a can of peaches. As we both exited the door to the forbidden outside a vacuum effect slammed the door closed behind us. We were trapped outside with no means of reentry. Someone had to call the boss. As the oldest of the two, I was elected to make the call from a service station across the street. It was one of the most frightening chores of my life. The boss came, unlocked the door for us and didn’t say a word. It wasn’t necessary for him to speak. The slamming of that door was sufficient reprimand. As the years past and I matured, I realized he wasn’t such a bad guy after all. He became one of my heroes and a role model. He was probably laughing inside about the incident, but it was years before I could crack a smile or keep from trembling when I heard the sound of a slamming door.
My friend and I went separate ways. I went into medicine and he chose dentistry. We both married high school sweethearts. We raise families and had successful, busy careers. Awards were won, responsible positions held, life and death situations dealt with and fortunes secured. Over 50 years lapsed and today I learned he was killed in an auto accident near Temple. His wife was severely injured and transported to our hospital.
I visited her today. After announcing myself, we held hands with tears beginning to well as we talked about her husband and old times. She immediately recalled the story of the lock out and how many times her husband had told the story with a big laugh. We both broke into a smile, the tears stopped and we were able to talk about our lives.
After all these years, I am most thankful for that frightening incident. It taught me a great deal about life and at last I can laugh. More importantly, I am reunited in spirit with my friend of so many years ago.