Grab and Go. That was the name of her clean area, where the bottles of plastic water faced forward fashionably, the shaped bottles to (hopefully) convince customers to pay sometimes up to $7 for a bottle of water. But they appeared so tempting, where they stood erect as toy soldiers, adjacent to perfectly organized romaine lettuce and gluten-free salads and beef jerky made of high-protein turkey or organic beef. And the cheeses, too, of course, were high-protein, low carb, made of angels’ milk, cream, and celestial cultures.
But there was Rose, with her blue gloves on, surgically arranging and wiping and disinfecting and placing the bottles and plastic-encased salads and plastic-wrapped jerky and pulling the boiled eggs to the front of the open coolers (but only after inspecting the dates of expiration). And the passengers came to her kiosk.
She took pride in it all. And I found myself thankful for her. She so differed from her competition.
I’d turned in my rental car, walked the macadam and painted concrete path towards ticketing and the terminals (a rather ominous noun at airports), purchased a gooey sausage, egg, and cheese (though I asked for one without cheese) croissant and black coffee for $11.67 from a rude woman who barely spoke English at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
And I’d found a seat after TSA Pre-check where I could watch the sun rise over the runway through the eastern window. I dug into my ruck and retrieved my iPhone and charged it in the vertical tower outlet adjacent to the row of seats. Then I pulled out the Carson McCullers novel I was completing, eager to complete the last two chapters of her debut novel, a novel I’d first read as a university freshman English major many moons ago.
But Rose’s Grab and Go was in front of me, and I kept looking up. She ran her place so distinctly.
A Starbucks was next to Rose’s Grab and Go. And Starbucks was a mockery. The sophomoric 20-something employee poured coffee with surly smirks. Her billiard-green apron was insufficient to cover her insolence.
Just wanted to tell you, Rose, that I saw you. The tiles in your area reflected the light from the bulbs above. Your trash bins had no ketchup stains or syrupy cola trails on them. The napkins were stocked and of good quality. You spoke to us travelers as we exited our flights and/or prepared to board them. You were kind. Not proud. A woman of character. You took pride in running your establishment. And it showed. And some of us recognized it in you.
Rose, you appeared to be in your late fifties, maybe even your sixities. You struck me as a great aunt and probably (hopefully) someone’s grandmother. You did not wear a wedding band, so maybe you were a widow or spinster, or maybe you just didn’t wear jewelry. I watched when you removed your plastic blue gloves and saw your aged hands, strong from use.
You were a black woman, strong and kind, and you represented yourself and your area well. (I find it difficult to swallow the concept of paying more money for a bottle of water than I made in multiple hours as a college kid many years ago, when I mowed grass and swept floors and worked fast food joints, etc.) But I’m thankful that folks came to your establishment.
I think some folks recognize that we’re in a time where some of us are so desperate for character, for kindness, for maturity, that we’ll pay for brief reminders that some of that abides.
I hope to see you next time in D.C., Rose. Keep doing what you’re doing. Some of us see. And we appreciate you for it. May you and your legacy be blessed.
2 thoughts on “I Saw You, Rose”
Well said, Jon. I hope that Rose has the opportunity to read it.
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Thank you, sir.