By Doug Vehle
The Daily Bosco
So it seemed strange at first when the guy behind the counter smirked as he asked "You heard we lost Chuck?" The way he said it I could have thought that the morning coffeemaker at the AM/PM Minimarket on South Harbor here in Fullerton had found another job, or at last was considering himself retired at his unknown, advanced age. Yet somehow I knew he just had to mean that it was final. And somehow, it only seemed right to laugh instead of cry.
The 10th anniversary of the opening of the store is approaching, and he had been there since day one. He was only paid to be there a few hours in the morning, making sure there was plenty of coffee, cream, etc. for the sunup crowd. But Chuck took his job seriously, putting in 8 to 10 hour days, responding to the customers in a way to put the WalMart greeters to shame. Long into his retirement years, he probably needed the small paycheck, but mostly he needed to be going. Hey, for a lot of people the morning coffee is serious business. So Chuck was the most important guy in the store at that time.
The guy knew what was going on with the customers. He responded to my long string of rebuilt or repaired scooters by announcing he was buying an electric at a nearby scooter store. Turns out it was a child's size scooter. But Chuck was a small man, it was actually big enough. And cost a lot less than an adult size scooter.
The kids who came intending to shoplift, the disturbed derelicts who used the restroom, everyone got the idea to behave in Chuck's store, which is certainly what it was while he was there. I was one of many who was surprised to ultimately realize he wasn't the real owner. And you could tell the grumpy types were at least glad their coffee, the right way for each of them, was going to be waiting for them.
So he left saying he felt tired, then didn't show up the next day. An era had ended. The police made a welfare call to his home and found him: he'd been watching TV when his time came. The story is his cats were in a panic when he was found.
Not the emotion shared by others. It really didn't surprise me that women would giggle and say, "Awww, poor Chuck." The dour response to news of the man just wouldn't fit. Neither would using the morbid words, I've yet to hear anything stronger than "Gone." The employees have been wearing t-shirts with his picture. I guess everyone really has that feeling that when their time comes, Chuck will have the coffee ready.