Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who's on First??!!??

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Open Letter to Whole Foods Guy

Dear Whole Foods Guy,

Tonight I entered your store on a mission. At the restaurant next door one of my best friends sat leaning over a table looking sick with the pain consuming her head. This, from the girl who bikes into the woods for fun, emerging bruised, scratched and exhausted but grinning. So I was highly concerned, and as I said, on a mission. Discouraged after scanning over aisles and seeing only labels for vitamins, herbs, homeopathic remedies and essential oils, I approached you. Yes, you. With your hair longer than mine, square wire rimmed glasses, and crooked apron. Great, I thought. One of these. 

My face began to flush while I stared at the organic remedies in on the shelf in front of me. I stammered with an urgency, "Look, I know y'all have all this all natural stuff, but I have a friend with a severe headache and I need something - Ibuprofen, Excedrin, Tylenol, Anything!" I looked up to see you shaking your head emphatically before I even finished the words. Oh great, here it comes. I was officially embarrassed and blushed to prove it. What was I thinking that I would find real medicine in Whole Foods??? You walked down the aisle a few steps and crouched in front of the bottom shelf to show us a few things. I thought surely you were avoiding showing me where the things I wanted were located because you couldn't let me "poison" my friend with such items. The first thing you showed us was some sort of Bark. Willow Bark I believe. Very similar to the ingredients in aspirin. Then there was some sort of herbal remedy, and lastly the essential oil version of "Head On". I couldn't believe I was standing there wasting my time this way, and stared at the floor behind you thinking, "Now what??" Meanwhile my sister gawked at the digital price tag - $21.99 for Bark? Are you JOKING? You explained that you couldn't carry the items I asked for because of chemicals in the coatings. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

I think you saw that I wasn't buying it - the product or your sales pitch. You stood upright then and lowered your voice a notch saying, "Well, there's a gas station about a block that way, and a grocery store about a minute further that direction.." You hesitated when I shook my head and told you that we didn't drive, but walked over from the restaurant next door. "Oh, you're on foot..." We sort of stood there all staring at each other while I tried to come up with something we could do. It's New Orleans. I wasn't walking a block away at 8:00 at night. I think we must have looked awfully worried because the next thing you said was something like, "You know what? Don't worry about it. I'll find something. I'll have someone look in the back, and I'll get something for you. Would you prefer something specific?" Shocked, but hopeful I told you ibuprofen would be good, but we'd take anything. I couldn't say thank you enough! You went to have someone take care of it.

While we lingered in the aisle staring aimlessly at items we knew nothing about you went about helping other customers. You paused to assure us that you were available if we needed you and that someone would be returning soon. I saw you answer a telephone and from a distance could tell that you were discussing us. I heard you say, "No, Just get whatever you can find, as much as you can get!" You looked to us to confirm that there was no allergy to aspirin. After hanging up you told us it would only be a few more minutes. 

The minutes crawled by and as they did I was replaying in my mind my friends reaction when I asked her what kind of medicine she wanted. Her eyes grew as big as saucers when she asked with surprised relief, "You have something??!" I told her no, but that I was going to get it. From that point all I got out of her were mumblings that she would be fine and other such incoherent nonsense. I knew better. 

Shortly though a bearded employee came down the aisle in your direction with something in his hand. We smiled and watched him pass. Before he interrupted you with your customer he turned back to us and asked, "Are you the ones with the friend...?" My relief was palpable as I said yes and he reached to place two small packets of medicine in my hand. I tried to press a couple of bills into his hand in return, thanking him profusely and insisting he take it for all his trouble. It was more than obvious that it required a wild goose chase to track down any real medicine in that place! He refused though after several attempts and finally told me, "Give it to him!"

You were still helping a customer further down the aisle but I saw you were keeping an eye on the interchange. I took the bills back regretfully and tried to come up with a way to give them to you without making your customer aware of what was going on. As I approached you I decided that the easiest way to make you accept it was to slip it into the large pocket of your hopelessly skewed apron. I did just that, without pausing to say anything so you would have no opportunity to return it. By the time you realized what happened I was too far away for you to give it back easily, but still you called after me, "No, you don't have to do this!" I turned around and said, "Thank you SO MUCH! You don't know how much we appreciate it!!" but kept walking towards the door, clutching my prize. My sister, who was several feet behind me caught on when you turned around to look for her, but she dashed around to the next aisle before you could reach her either. I looked back again in time to hear you exhale exasperatedly and see you blush to your hairline, but smile nonetheless. All I could do was grin unrepentantly and wave while I walked out of sight. 

Yes, in the beginning I stereotyped you very erroneously. I think you taught me a lesson in that regard. I believe I experienced a Random Act of Kindness tonight. The kind that makes me wonder if you are a child of The Way, or simply someone who was raised in the generous atmosphere that seems to permeate native New Orleanians. You did something that you did not have to do. You went to a great effort to help us, though no one asked you to. And you expected nothing in return, which made it all the more precious. And I want you to know that it made a very distinct impression on me. As silly as it is to say it again... thank you.