07 August 2008

last week in las vegas: tribute to norma

it would be a great time to work behind the counter at a gas station mini mart. or at least that's what norma makes it seem like.

as the sun sets on my time in vegas, lashing its fury and licking my heels with its dripping temperatures to the very last, i find myself cherishing time in familiar places like the gas station mini mart that kisses my office parking lot. since i walk to it from behind, i don't even know what the exact name of this little spot is, i just know they sell sinclair gas to the masses on the corner of charleston and buffalo, and they had the good fortune long ago of meeting norma, a willing and hopeful employee, and they snatched her up good.

for the last 11 months i have click clacked over there at least once a day for a diet soda, perhaps a "2/$0.50" baggie of candy corn, or if it's a bad day, a zipping bag of planter's trail mix at an outrageous "take me for a ride because i'm desperate" sort of price. and every day i've gotten a "hello, sweetie, how are you?" heavy on the jersey accent, from norma.

norma has fluffy gray hair parted down the middle, and wears the same maroon polo shirt every day, as the gas station uniform dictates. she's overall shaped like a grape, but for all the attention and loyalty she gets you'd think surely she were jessica simpsonn or some other silver screen siren.   every morning a stream of males come in alongside me.  some of them are headed off to a construction site to sweat it out all day long on a balance beam.  some of them look like they've done so much crack for so long they'll momentarily blow away in the wind or at the very least start muttering profanities to beat the band.  and some are dressed in well cut, stiff shirts and ties.  no matter where they're headed, they bee line to norma and wrap their arms around her, sometimes planting a smoochy smooch on her cheek or forehead.  i think my favorite was when a latin man of small, stocky stature, snuck up from behind and wrapped his arms around her as she restocked the cheetos.  then he hoisted her a few inches off the ground and said, "mmmmorning norma!"  then he picked up his 20 ounce can of beer, paid, and was out the door.  i know many grown men who don't make it a habit of showing such affection to their mothers.  but for norma, it is to be shown, no way around it.  while i haven't taken our friendship to the hug level (large radius of personal space), i'm sure if i ever needed a hug she would be loathed to deny me one.

i am also pretty sure she is a workaholic, because she doesn't seem to leave that mini-mart.  about once or twice a month i'll have an enrollment meeting i must translate for which begins at approximately 6AM.  i almost always drive with my office manager, and we meet in our vacant office parking lot.  i know, it's like seminary except it lacks the presence of the Spirit, and i get paid for it.  sometimes i'll stumble into the mini-mart before the meeting, and who's there reading a cheesy romance novel behind the counter?  norma.  a few times i've filled up with gas after work, and it's norma who's still there at 5:30PM to accept my cash.  norma lives and breathes her mini-mart, and happily so.

she's calm and doesn't care, but she does.  she don't take no crap from nobody who's trying to buy ciggies without showing an ID.  she knows who's coming in for the bathroom key before they can say a word and forks it.  a cheery grin is included in all transactions, unless you look like a smart alec, in which case she'll obliterate your smirk with a smirk of her own.  norma is the boss.  she's mrs. weasley mixed with fran drescher mixed with the donald.  she's got snacks within reach at any given moment, she's got pals, she's got opinions, she's got power.  

which is why i was glad i threw up into her trash can this morning of all the trash cans in vegas.  i should have seen it coming, i've thrown up enough the last couple years to last 3 lifetimes.  reason implies i'd be able to accurately estimate to the very second when my stomach's going to say, "SORRY, SUCKAH!"  but all i knew was that as i stood there, filling a cup of diet coke (indeed, i got addicted to it on my mission trying to soothe my violent stomach with the carbonation, and now i love the stuff to an almost unnatural degree), i wished to be laying on the floor in p-a-i-n.  and then 2 seconds later i whirled around and tossed it all into the rubbish bin to the right of the soda fountain.  an elderly man restocking FUZE bottles in a nearby fridge case gasped a la jennifer love hewitt.  norma was right on the scene, "oh, i'm so sorry, honey, here i've got napkins for you."  she asked questions, directed me around the store, and then i was cleaned up and on my way to report i wouldn't be coming in to work today.  

good old norma.  i wish all my diet coke providers could get the cheers theme song stuck in my head.

1 comment:

liNdsEY aNdERsoN said...

i LOVE norma. and i LOVE that you wrote a blog about her. she will be missed..