Mr. Trouble

16 Jul

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I would be dedicating an entire post to my favorite elderly customer, Mr. Trouble.  In retail, finding an elderly regular that you actually enjoy seeing is just as rare as seeing an elderly person running around the store without a walker (with the green tennis balls attached at the ends, of course). I’d like to believe that every person who works in retail can admit to having that one older customer that they just can’t help but love. At my old store, my favorite elderly customer was actually an elderly couple who still acted like they were two eighteen year-olds in love. Their good nature and abundance of humor really made me excited to see them when they were in the store. In addition, they also proved to me that it is possible to find a partner that you can share the rest of your life with…the key ingredient to a long-lasting marriage, it seems, is having a great sense of humor and an ability to not take things too seriously. In addition to always laughing at my jokes and poking fun of each other in front of me, they also constantly asked if I had met their “handsome grandson Tiger” at my high school yet. I secretly wished that, one day, they would bring him in so that I could meet him. Even if he wasn’t my type, I probably would have dated him just so I could have been around his awesome grandparents more! Towards the end of my stay at the old store, this couple stopped coming in as much and it really made me sad.

I do not enjoy Mr. Trouble coming in because we have good conversations. Instead, I enjoy seeing Mr. Trouble because he enjoys annoying people and being a goof ball just as much as I enjoy doing that myself. The first time that I met him, he slowly walked over to my counter and said “Here comes trouble!”  And with that, the name stuck.

Mr. Trouble is probably in his late seventies or early eighties. He always wears dress shirts with a front pocket that is accoutered with enough pens and pencils to open his own small stationary store, a wallet that is falling apart, and several other pieces of paper. He usually wears a tan pair of dress pants, and one of the pockets in the back also contains many other cards and articles of paper jammed into it. Mr. Trouble, armed with a wooden cane, always walks slowly into our store. He used to be a tall man, but he now is hunched over so much that he is almost parallel to the ground. Even if he thinks nobody is paying attention to him, he always has a small smirk–a kind of look that is a mixture of both amusement and a constant determination to not completely burst out laughing–on his face. I remember one time I was taking a family’s passport photos and I was trying very hard to get an infant’s attention so that she would look at me and I would get a good photo of her, and I caught Mr. Trouble watching us and laughing silently to himself.

The thing I love most about Mr. Trouble isn’t that he always holds tightly onto the twenty dollar bill he always uses to buy his two daily newspapers (I always have to literally pry the bill from his fingers) or the fact that he often stands there after I tell him the total and says “Put it on account…on account of I don’t want to pay!”, but it is the fact that whenever I asked him how his day was going, he never really seemed to volunteer any information that could possibly be depressing. I found out through another co-worker, however, that Mr. Trouble’s wife was actually terminally ill and had been in and out of hospitals for almost four years. Mr. Trouble spent so much time with her that he became a pastoral volunteer at the hospital. To see a person walk around with such a good sense of humor despite what I imagine would be a constant battle to keep his wife healthy really helped me to understand that some things in life, especially the bad things, really can’t be helped…the show must always go on. For Mr. Trouble, that show always consisted of him trying to make us laugh, even if it meant him standing to the side and waiting for me to finish ringing up customers so he could tell me a funny joke.

It is so easy for elderly people, and even people in general, to become bitter when things do not go as planned in their lives. I think a lot of people could learn so much from a man like Mr. Trouble. The last time I saw him, I overheard him telling someone that his wife was finally back at home and out of the hospital. I think there’s a lot to be said for good humor and positivity in the face of such distressing times. I hope to be seeing Mr. Trouble as much as possible before I hopefully leave in a year to find a real job…I think there’s a lot I can learn from him in that time.

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