Jobs well done
by TRACEY BARNES PRIESTLEY
I was checking off my errands like clockwork the other day -- you know, those mundane tasks that can be especially tiresome, even downright annoying, because you've done them a million times before and you will do them a million times again before your life is over. Like buying groceries -- now there's an example. There are times when it feels like I spend more time in the grocery store than some of the employees.
But on this brilliant sunny day of errands, I found myself smiling. At first I thought it was the sunshine and, of course, that did help. But as I drove out of the parking lot from the grocery store, it occurred to me that I was also smiling because of the pleasant little chat I'd had with Candy, one of my favorite checkers. She and I have known each other for more than 20 years now, though the relationship is pretty darned limited. There's always been a check stand between us, and since Candy checks at the speed of light, our encounters may last all of five minutes.
But what I know about Candy is that she's very efficient, quite responsible about her job and can spot a coupon item that will save me 25 cents when I haven't even given it a thought. She's also friendly, kind and has a great sense of humor. Somehow she manages all of this while standing on her feet for eight hours working with the public. (If you've ever done it, you'll get my point. If you haven't, it would be an enlightening experience. You'd be humbled in the first hour.) Candy does her job very well.
And, that's what this column is about -- people doing their jobs well.
I started thinking of the people who make my life a whole lot easier because they believe in doing a good job. In Murphy's Sunny Brae market alone there are quite a few: Andy in the meat department, who always has a smile and a willingness to answer any question; Wendy, an outgoing checker who never seems to stop moving; Todd, in produce, a hardworking young man who once, for my daughter's birthday, set back the plumpest, most beautiful flat of strawberries for me. Simple really, but that attention to detail reflects a respectable work ethic.
Then I thought about the "boys" at Union 76 in Arcata and how they have managed to make my life easier. This has been my garage forever because it is the closest to my home and office. But it's more than convenience that keeps me as a regular customer -- it's the service. After work one night I discovered my car had a flat tire. Scott was there in five minutes, pumping it up enough for me to drive over to the station. Different time, different car, another flat -- this time a half mile away. Scott to the rescue again. (My pride wants you to know that I can, and have, changed flat tires. Imagine my frustration when I couldn't get the lug nuts off and it took the upper body strength of a man to do it for me. Scott had the good sense to not tease me about it for too long.) Leonard and Steve have both managed to work our car problems into their schedule. Finally, there's Denis, the previous owner, though he still works there. My hunch is he gets credit for establishing the standard of customer service that this place is known for.
Another regular stop for me is Longs Pharmacy in Arcata. It's unfortunate that health problems in my family have made me a fairly regular fixture there, but it's quite fortunate for me that they have the staff they do. What a tough job these people have -- trying to help those who are either sick or caring for someone who is sick. The pharmacy staff works -- or is caught -- between the customers, the doctor's offices and worst of all the insurance companies. How many times during their day does something go wrong? And then what happens? Plenty, especially for those customers lost in their own frustration or ill health. But do Sharon and Bernie bark back? I've never heard it. On the contrary, they somehow manage to stay attentive, even pleasant. Amazing.
Exhaustion from all of these errands -- and work and kids -- has made us regulars at Arcata's Fiesta Cafe, a neighborhood restaurant that serves up great food and even better service. Show up on a busy weekend night and you'll always see the owner, Guillermina Luna, hard at work, right alongside her staff. A petite woman with thick black hair and a beautiful face, Guillermina smiles at each and every person who walks through her front door, then quickly turns to clear a table or take an order. I know a thing or two about waitressing, as it was the job that paid for most of my college education. It's backbreaking, messy work, and it just kills your feet. But you'd never know this by the way Guillermina and her staff conduct themselves.
Daily errands, checked off the list, week after month after year. All necessities of life and all made a little more pleasant because people believe in doing their jobs well. My thanks to you all for making life in this community a little easier and certainly more enjoyable.
© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.