I Don't Even Know Her Name

by Michel Schwartz 2 months ago in humanity

An essential angel -- an anchor in chaos

I Don't Even Know Her Name

A few months ago, a young whimper snapper dared to give me a senior discount. It was an innocent mistake, maybe a kind gesture, but, at 45 years old, I was indignant. I didn’t yell but my sneer was heard by her manager. I didn’t mean to make her cry.

This young un' is now my best friend. I don’t even know her name.

The one thing I am clinging to each morning to start my day is my trip across the street to Dunkin’ Donuts. Every day, I break up my commute from my bed to the living room by taking a detour across the street. I order the same thing: a large hot latte with extra sugar for me and a French cruller for my husband.

In my former life, I was able to get the same order filled at the Dunkin’ Donuts in the train station on my way to the office. Whatever was going on in my home life, I had the nectar of the gods to calm my nerves during my morning self pep talk and meditation before my journey to a whole new world.

The number one thing I miss from going into the office is my transition from quirky wife to manager. I looked forward to the grind Monday through Friday putting my manager’s face on when I got to building I work in. Being in customer service in a Copy Center, the number one rule I had for everyone in my department was to treat everyone we encountered as the most important person in the world.

When people meet me, they don’t realize that I come to the job with a colorful background. I was a nerd growing up and didn’t quite fit in. Then in college, I reinvented myself and was a force to be reckoned with. As the youngest editor in the history of my college’s newspaper, I had to prove myself. My managerial style became doing everything myself and hoping that my team would be so amazed by my work ethic, they would follow suit. Joke was on me – they just let me do it.

I went on to a career as a journalist for several years after college. In the end of my career I worked at Crain’s Business Insurance Magazine. When I left college in 1996, I thought the old boys club was a thing of the past, that the glass ceiling was a myth. By 2001, I discovered that, no matter how smart I was, no matter how determined I was, I would never be an “old boy.”

My dad died of leukemia the Thanksgiving after 9-11 and the stress was so high that I walked away from that life. Now I have spent the last 15 years as a Copy Center manager in a major metropolitan museum in one of the largest cities in the country.

I serve 73 departments and get to work with most of the 650 employees of the company. I worked my way up from Copy Clerk to Assistant Manager and only became manager a few years ago.

Ten years ago, I worked almost every day while I want through five cycles of chemotherapy for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and Mature B-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I worked every day, not because I needed the money, but because I couldn’t imagine not going to work.

Amid this Stay-at-Home Ordinance, I, along with most of the rest of the nation, am benched. A benched workaholic makes for an albeit healthy workaholic but an unhappy one.

When I walk into that Dunkin’ Donuts each morning, the young lady I made cry just a few months ago always smiles. She risks her safety by putting on her mask each day to make me my latte every day. Is she essential staff? You better believe it.

About a week ago, I gave my husband some space and took a long walk. I walked two miles to the yuppie neighborhood to treat myself to a Starbucks. I was one of the loyal followers who has paid for overpriced coffee for decades. When I got to what I thought was the oasis, I saw a sign on the door, “This store is temporarily closed. Visit our branches with drive-throughs and stay safe.” Really? Starbucks can’t even make carry-out?

The Dunkin’ Donuts in my neighborhood is staffed mostly by east Indians. Many of the young ladies wear burkas. Everyone seems nice and hard working. Just making an observation. L-rd only knows what discrimination they go through because of their appearances. My whiteness is a privilege that shelters me from that experience.

When I see my friend each morning, I always ask her how she’s doing. She may have all sorts of struggles and issues, but she doesn’t let me see it. When I walk in, I am the most important person in the world. Day after day, she gets on public transportation with her mask on and keeps six feet between herself and other human beings. She shows up every single day to make my latte. She always smiles. I made her cry before the world went mad. But now, her smile and latte gets me through each day.

Thank you, my friend, for showing up to work each day. For my emotional health and that of my neighbors, there is no one more essential than you.

Michel Schwartz
Michel Schwartz
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Michel Schwartz

My current day job is working in a service department of a large non-profit. My education is in journalism. My passion is bringing a voice to the community. Every experience I've had brought me to here: a contributing microcosm of society.

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