Yesterday I went to my local bookstore to get a birthday gift for my four year old niece. She has two little brothers, so I planned to buy something for them too, since I see no reason not to suck up to children from birth.
I did not go to Borders or Barnes and Noble to buy the gifts. Or any of the large stores that hire people who are often texting someone while they point you toward the wrong book section.
On the contrary, I make it a habit to shop at the small, independent store in my town, owned by a group of older, entertaining ladies [like, say, ME] who have actually read the books they sell. They even listen to the audio books to make sure they're read well by the actor or author.
But as I walked into the tiny establishment yesterday, I was approached by someone I had never seen before. A very young woman. Very, very young. Rats, I forgot about summer hires. The closer she got the younger she looked. So I went from thinking she was in college to thinking she was in high school to thinking she had been stolen by gypsies from a circus juggler in one of the former soviet republics and sold to the ladies to work in their store as a book slave. By the time she asked whether she might help me, I thought she was really tall for a fourth grader.
Okay, I kid. She was sixteen. Wow, I forget that you don't have crow's feet and smile lines yet when you're sixteen. I could tell that she, unlike many girls her age, was still a virgin. She didn't have that "look" in her eye yet, usually enhanced by very black eyeliner. Like you've seen what's behind Door Number Three and holy crap, I wanna change my mind.
My mother used to tell me when she saw the "look" in my girlfriends' faces. "Your friend Ann is no longer a virgin, I notice." I think that was her way of letting me know she would be able to tell when it happened to me. And I would be grounded. Oh, great. Mom -- I'm six feet all, breast-free and barely weigh 124 pounds. Do you think I'm actually going to lose my virginity in this century?
Of course, that was back when getting pregnant in high school wouldn't be considered an outside activity on your college application. It meant you spent junior year at your aunt's in New Jersey and came back for senior year looking guilty of a crime.
Show of hands from preggo teens in Gloucester -- did any of you actually have an orgasm while copping to the copulation?
But I digress.
After she asked, I told the young, wide-eyed, last-remaining-high-school-virgin the ages and genders of the kids I wanted outfitted with books. I didn't expect much. Perhaps a shuffling of feet and a mumbled, "Look over there."
But I was in for a huge surprise. Instead of pointing me toward the children's book area and walking away, she actually helped me. She personally selected a very entertaining book for my niece from special group of the most popular kids' books they sell. It told a funny story with wonderful pictures. The book was perfect for my niece and her budding sense of humor. Virgin girl said it was the second in a series, whereupon she got me the first one to look at, which I bought, too. She was very familiar with all the books. I was quite impressed.
She picked out something just right for the two boys, too. A story about trains that I loved and a touchy feelly book about a dinosaur that was very cute.
While we were at the counter, she asked if I would like to have them wrapped and I said I also wanted them sent, which, for that age group of girls, is like setting their hair on fire. But she handled everything without getting flustered. I only mention this because in the past the other young people who worked there had to stop and ask someone else what to do. She, however, never missed a beat.
She even got me a new discount card and punched it according to the amount I'd spent without having to have someone else do the math.
While we were finishing up I said she was the best young person who had ever waited on me in the all years I had been coming to that store. I was also thinking that teenage celibacy prevents your brain from rotting.
She said thank you; I had made her day. I said, no. no you made my day. She probably thought I was thanking her for the help she gave me. I was thinking -- oh, good I can write about this in my blog.