My town has it's own bus company, that hasn't been subject (yet) to a takeover by one of the bigger operators. That's probably quite something in this day and age. A fellow I know called Tony worked there for most of his life.
I hadn't seen him for a while but he came to chat today as I busked - this is one of the reasons why I so love what I do, surely one of the most pleasantly sociable jobs in the world. He'd worked with that same company for for 42 years - 42 years - most or maybe all of his working life. People used to do this sort of thing. He perhaps went to work there as a boy of 18 - maybe 16. Was his first job to make people tea, and endure the jokes of the older drivers? He himself was a driver for a while.
He was promoted, a step at a time, and worked in all areas. As a manager he seemed keen to muck in when someone was ill, or something needed doing. Once we phoned the company for news about one service and it was he who answered the phone "Yes" he said "we're running a service, if you can call it that" Nowadays, we live in an age of cover-my-ass experts, but he was so gloriously tactless - saying things that noone would ever dare to say now. I like to think that the reason he got away with it was because he was what people are pleased to call a 'character'. Whenever I saw him there was always something going on around him - usually laughter.
I was rather pleased today, when he came to chat. "42 years" he said as he turned away, "so many memories" I watched him go, and wondered about this. I've never been able to stand even 10 years in one job. When I did I saw the depths of human small-mindedness. We were all so bored - yet here was a man who made the best of his work with one company for all those years.
As I watched him walk down the street with his wife, I wondered why more people couldn't be like Tony. But then I guess if they were, he wouldn't have been so special.
I tend to have coffee in town several times a week - sometimes as much to warm up as anything else. It's always a small latte and it's always in the same coffee shop, where Toni works. She's occasionally made my coffee for a few years now. She's pretty, of Italian ancestry (but speaks with no accent), and unfailingly friendly and kind.
I don't know about you, but that she stays so polite every day seemed like an achievement worthy of note to me.
Toni is leaving her place of employ tomorrow. I bought her some flowers - something I rarely do - with a note inside. I didn't tell her, in it, how much her kindness has meant to me. It wouldn't do, I think, to tell her how much I love her, and how I'll miss her.
I don't know what sort of love it is. At my age, perhaps one ought to. But there it is, and she's leaving. How I am going to find another person like this, I do not know. It's a feeling I'm accustomed to. Some people leave a big hole when they move on. I hope I see her again. Soon.