Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We Lost Chuck

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.

1 comment:

Doug Vehle said...

That's an old story to be repeated, ironic in the timing. So here we go. I just found out someone else died a couple weeks ago.

The question was asked why I wasn't at the funeral. Not someone I knew all that well, but yeah, I would have gone. Another example of me getting more and more like a hermit, not having talked to anyone who would have known in the last few weeks.

She was in a rocky marriage, I sort of felt she was the one doing the rocking. Her husband was an unsophisticated backwoods type in the city, but not such a bad sort.

There's a basic concept in the human services you look for when there's marital problems; the Victim/Rescuer/Persecutor cycle. She didn't look particularly happy in her wedding photos, I got the idea when I saw them that she might might have seen her pending marriage as a crutch. Of course in such cases the self absorbed victim doesn't find what she needs in her rescuer, so she becomes the persecutor, blaming him for her misery, when in fact it all originates within.

It takes two to stay in such a relationship, so while he would talk about how much better his life would be after she gets the divorce she keeps threatening him with, he was actually wanting to keep his family together. Her sudden death certainly isn't bringing any sort of release.

So I think of Chuck - old, unhealthy, unconcerned about how miserable he should be. And I think of how much happier this woman should have been with her life. I'll leave the inner comment to you, not making one myself. . . .