Reprinted from August 1999
Last week I was shopping and I ran into this lady who used to work for RB and me thirty years ago. I couldn’t recall her name, but we chatted like old friends. It’s like that old saying, “she’s changed so much she hardly recognized me!”
Anyway, as we started to reminiscing about old times, I said to her, “Do you recall that customer you used to deal with who used to come into the store with his pet monkey?” She cupped her ear and I noticed she mumbled. She looked puzzled, apparently she didn’t remember. Then she said, “But you recall the cowboy who used to ride his horse up to the pillars at the shopping center, tie the horse off, and then come into the store don’t you?” I didn’t recall.
We talked about a buying trip we took to New York in 1979. She thought that was the wrong year, but I knew I was right – I don’t make mistakes about things like that. I asked her how her husband and children were, not being specific about their names, and she replied they were all just fine. She then asked if my son had graduated from high school, and I said that he had back in 1970. She looked shocked as if she couldn’t imagine how time had gone by. I thought that sounded a bit senile.
We went on talking about the jewelry business and how much things have changed. I said, “Do you recall when it would have been considered a joke to say you could put out a watch for $10 or under?” She did not recall.
I started to tell her about a traveling salesman we’d know well. Fortunately, she seemed to recall this story. I said, “Do you remember that traveling salesman, ah, the one from Zonk Co.? He sold ah…”
She filled it in, “He sold sterling silver jewelry.”
“Ah, yes, and his name was ah…”
“Yes Leroy.” I hesitated “ahhh” as I stammered for the last name.
After a suitable humiliation she said, “It was Silver Martha, he also sold silver jewelry.”
As we talked along, I found she was filling in my sentences for me and vice versa so that as we chatted it went something like this:
“Have you seen that new jewelry store on the mall? It is very…ahhh…”
And she said, “elegant.”
“Yes, thank you,” I replied.
And then went on, “I do think their merchandise is a bit ah…ah…”
“Yes, that’s it. It is too pricey for this area. We have 750,000 ah….ah”
“Oh yes, population. And more than half are in a very low income level making for a lot of ah…ah…”
“Poverty,” she added.
“Yes, making poverty a real factor in which stores make it and which don’t.”
She took up the cause, “Yes, you know the superintendent of schools…oh what’s his name?”
“Bill White?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Now what I was going to tell you…oh, I know, I saw him going into that new jewelry store at the mall.”
“Well,” I agreed.
“Doesn’t he make over a hundred thousand dollars a year?”
“Doesn’t who make over a hundred thousand dollars a year?” she asked.
“Bill White,” I repeated.
“Who? Oh yes the new school superintendent,” she said. “Yes, maybe he can afford that store.”
“Do you remember how it was when kids used to come into our store and sell ads for their yearbooks, and we participated in school events until lawsuits became a problem for everyone and ah…ah…” she said.
“Liability,” I offered.
She provided, “Yes, liability became a problem for everyone.”
“I do recall, “ I replied.
She said, “Do you recall one year a ten year old boy wanted to buy a Mother’s Ring for his ailing mother and RB sold it to him for $25, which was about your cost?”
I shook my head, “I don’t recall.”
She looked wistfully, “Yes and you gave me paid leave when my son received a bad diagnosis and I had to be with him at the hospital and during recovery.”
“I don’t remember,” I responded.
We went on chatting and enjoying it so much. She returned to college and had a gotten a teaching degree and had taught school; now she’d retired from this. During that time, she’d move away and then back into the area.
We had a simply delightful chat at the grocery store. I would have enjoyed speaking with her again, but I simply can’t recall her name!