It’s said we’re going to get freezing rain today, but so far the temperature outside hasn’t been cold enough for the rain to freeze. While I was eating lunch and gazing out the window, I watched a man walk along the side of the road with an umbrella over his head and wearing a light brown jacket. The jacket looked similar to one worn by a customer who made himself known to me when I worked at Wegmans.
Most of my time spent at Wegmans was working the cash register. One time, I was needed to cover a shift for someone who worked in the cafe area, and I did so well that most of my hours were shifted to that area of the store.
The cafe area has a buffet where you can fill a box and pay based on how much the filled box weighs. You can also get cold bottles of soda and water, slices of pizza, submarine sandwiches, and can even have a small number of regular groceries cashed out (like if you ran in for a few things for a party, then picked up your pizza and wanted to pay for everything at the same time). If you wanted to stay and eat, there were a few tables near the registers and more seating in an area that was directly above the cafe and prepared foods area.
As is true with working anywhere, there were regular customers, and you could almost set a watch or tell the day of the week by when you saw them. A number of senior citizens came in the morning or early afternoon and would stay a while. Once the lunch rush slowed down, the tables were covered in crumbs, random drops of soup or some kind of drink, newspapers or magazines, and sometimes wrappers or packages or whole trays with garbage. Customers were supposed to clean their own messes, but of course it fell onto us cashiers to clean up for the ones who, for whatever reason, couldn’t be bothered to do so. It was while I was cleaning up post-lunch that I had an elderly guy stop me and ask me about going to the dance club at the biggest casino in the area. He suggested that I should go with friends, and I just nodded and told him that was a good idea and that I’d consider it. I didn’t think much about it, as he had pointed out an ad for the club in the newspaper, and I just figured he was giving me ideas of how I should unwind after work.
I saw the guy a few more times after that. He would always come in during or just after the lunch rush, he’d sit down with a newspaper and some food, and he would just hang out until he felt like leaving. He’d ask how I was doing, sometimes asking again about going to the dance club. One time, he asked about taking me there, and I politely declined. Again, I didn’t think much of it, as he was being nice and making conversation, and maybe I just misheard him. After all, he was easily in his eighties, and his voice wasn’t loud and clear anymore.
It wasn’t around Valentine’s Day, but one day he came over to my register while I worked in the cafe and he set a bag on the counter in front of me. There was something in the Wegmans bag, and he said it was for me. I didn’t open the bag, but I pressed the plastic of the bag against the object held inside. There was a Whitman’s Sampler box of chocolates.
I told him I couldn’t accept it, that I wouldn’t take it. After my protest, he grabbed the bag and walked away, slumping a bit as if defeated and especially as if rejected. That’s when I realized my suspicions were true, that it wasn’t just that he was being nice, he actually wanted to date me. Up to that moment, I didn’t want to assume that was the case, because why would an octogenarian want someone who’s in her late twenties but looks like she’s in her early twenties? Okay, I know a few reasons. The most awkward part of it all wasn’t just his age, but it was also that he was older than Mom who was still alive at that time. So there was no way that I was going to be interested in this guy, and I figured it was safer to assume he was always just being nice.
There were actually moments when he would look for me when I was on a regular register, just to see if I was working that day. I don’t remember if he was still doing that after I rejected him. I just remember that every time I saw him after I refused his gift, he still looked depressed.
After a while, I didn’t see him anymore. Either he changed his routine so he didn’t have to see me, or maybe he passed away. I don’t know anything about him, to be honest. I never asked for his name, and I don’t know if he was ever married or if he had a family. But as far as I was concerned, he was a customer, and I only had to be nice to him as long as it didn’t interfere with my work. But it did make things awkward to be around him, so for that alone I’m glad that I don’t have to see him anymore at all.
There will be others. Not for me, hopefully, but there will be other older guys hitting on younger women with the expectation that something will come of it. I don’t blame the guys for trying, but it bothers me when they act like one woman is their last and only hope for happiness, or they assume that they will be the last guy that woman could ever want. I’ve only been around for three decades so far, and I haven’t met anyone who could fulfill all my wants or needs. Not to mention, there’s that fantasy version of a person, where you picture them as your perfect other half; the real thing is never as you hoped it would be anyway. You can either be disappointed by rejection, or when you realize your fantasy isn’t what you dreamed, but it’s always best not to make your disappointment the issue that another person has to deal with. That’s my biggest complaint.
Now that the sun is setting, any rain we get might start to freeze. Whoever that guy was earlier, I hope he’s inside now. It didn’t seem like the elderly customer I had, but I still wouldn’t wish the worst for him, even if he did make me uncomfortable.