I was pretty blown away by the way people reacted to the death of Kobe Bryant. I don’t know anyone who had ever met the man, yet collectively my FaceBook feed was overwhelmingly sad and strangely (in my mind) personally affected. After spending considerable time contemplating, I think I know why.
We are affected by even the most random relationships.
“I guess I might as well tell you now… tonight’s my last night here.” I was surprised; she’s been here as long as I’ve been coming to eat my late-night meals. She seemed mildly emotional about it. I, too, was a little choked up, and I was puzzled. I didn’t even know her name. As I drove home, I had anxiety. I don’t know why.
Isn’t it interesting how casual relationships – and the loss of them – can affect us?
I mean, she knew what I liked to drink. (Mountain Dew.) She knew that I wanted only Swiss cheese on my hamburgers and that sometimes I got onion rings, but other times I got French fries. I knew that she worked third shift at a 24/7 diner and that she was in college. So, I guess we knew more about each other than I thought.
From reading my receipt, I now know that her name is Victoria; I wonder if she goes by Vicky. Or Tori.
I said I was sorry to hear that she was leaving. She started to confide in me that the general manager hadn’t treated her very well. I empathized that I couldn’t imagine how hard it was to work here, especially overnight, with limited support and drunk customers. I also took control of the conversation, which is a trick most counselors have to learn to navigate the world outside of work.
I said, “Who’s going to take care of me?” It wasn’t super sincere, but I wanted her to feel valued. She told me that the regular server would be here and I’d be fine. She meant it, I could tell.
A week later, I returned. Victoria was not there and there was a distinct, noticeable difference. The server (not my usual guy) apologized to me as soon as he seated me. “Two cooks called off, the pregnant manager is in the back cooking as quickly as she can, but it’s going to be a minute before your food comes out. I just wanted you to know.”
It’s 3:30 AM on a Saturday night. I don’t work until Monday and have nowhere else to be. I told him to do his best, and I’d be right here whenever it was ready.
The other server came to the table next to mine and told them that she was really sorry, but they ran out of pancakes, one of their signature dishes. She handled it like a pro, and the large party of hungry people took it in stride, substituting French Toast instead. Every table, but the one they seated me at, is filthy. People are waiting for carryout orders. The servers look miserable, terrified that they’re going to get screamed at or worse. I miss Victoria; she had things in better shape when she was here overnight.
But what was it last week that had me uneasy when I drove away? Was it worry about getting my food out fast? I don’t think so.
No, I think there’s power in connections, and even the most casual of relationships still matter. That’s why people grieved Kobe so hard.
Kirk Sheppard is a blogger, focusing on finding clarity through topics like spirituality, mental health, and wellness in 2020.
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