I switched to Stan’s lot because it was cheaper, truthfully. I drive into the city to work, and my car needs to stay somewhere and Stan charged $5 less per month than my previous lot. So, I started parking in Stan’s lot.
Is it fair to share my first impression? His nose was running in the sharp, biting Michigan cold and when he reached into his pocket to give me change I saw his nails were long, yellow, and very thick.
That was my first impression.
But, his impression of me was probably no better: me, usually late and running to work, with too many bags full of books. Me, who would consistently forget to pay him on the first of the month, offering (red-faced) my payment on the SECOND of the month.
“That’s alright,” he’d say.
He liked to chat about all kinds of things: the war (Vietnam?), his church (St. Al’s), the politics of his church, the time the gang he said owned the lot beat up another guy, etc.
I, though, was often in a rush. Often already running late, often avoiding the chats by rushing straight to work.
“Hey,” he’d shout across the lot, “did you get married this weekend?”
And I’d laugh and deny such charges.
Frequently, though, he’d just shout after me, “Be safe, kid. Be careful.”
One day, last spring, my coworker Melissa came in extra late.
“I was talking to Stan,” Melissa said softly, “I was talking to Stan, and he started talking about his family, how much his missed his children…and he started to cry.”
We were silent, and then resolved to make him an Easter basket. When Easter arrived we signed a card, sent some Reese’s eggs and smiled at him like little kids.
Then Melissa left for big and excellent things: grad school far away in a prestigious place.
“Give ’em hell, kid,” was his parting advice to her. We giggled and tweeted.
On the first of the month I drove into the lot, groaned, and slapped my forehead. I had forgotten to grab cash, again. I knew he’d be understanding, though.
I stepped out onto the gravel and turned…to see a different attendant. He charged me for the extra day, told me that Stan had gone to the doctor.
But, Stan didn’t come back. I asked about him again and was told that he passed away. Yes, they were serious, they asked why would I question about someone’s death?
And I walked into work with a heavy heart.
Stan, my friend. He wasn’t even that old, really. Or weak for that matter.
I texted Melissa, she shared my sorrow.
I’m glad I gave him the Easter basket, but I wish I would’ve listened to his stories.
I wish I would’ve taken his picture.
Would the five minute difference on the swipe-clock have mattered that much if I had stuck around to hear one more story? Probably not.
Be safe, Stan.