Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Bought A Conversation That Came With A Shoeshine

On Monday, I decided to do something that I've always wanted to do since I was a kid.  I remember seeing people doing it on TV when I watched movies with my father back in the day.  As an adult, I've seen it in some airports.  However, I've never taken the time to actually have it done.  I'm talking about getting a shoeshine.

There's something nostalgic about sitting down on a sunny afternoon and getting the shoes nice and shiny while you enjoy banter with the shoeshine person.  What's funny is that I actually have my own shoeshine kit at home that I normally use.  But, I wanted the one-on-one experience that I've seen so many people receive in the movies.  The experience that I used to have with my barber before he retired (and I went bald).

I walked up to the shoeshine station in my building's lobby.  The gentleman who works there directed me to the steps and I climbed up and placed my shoes on the platforms.  The gentleman rolled up my pants into a cuff and proceeded to wipe the dust off of my shoes.  He was a late 50-something year old black man.  His hair was gray and wavy as it appeared to be slightly slicked back.  Although he was older, he appeared to be in really good shape.  No signs of aches or stiffness as he moved around the shoeshine stand.  When he looked at you it was obvious in his eyes that he truly appreciated you giving him the opportunity to gain your business as well as your friendship.

He asked,"where are you from?"

"Here in the Jackson area," I replied.

That's all it took for the conversation to take off.  Although there was a newspaper sitting beside me and my smartphone was in my pocket, I had no interest in entertaining those items.  I just wanted to enjoy something that a lot of people miss out on these days: a simple, face-to-face conversation.  And he was definitely willing to oblige.

His told me his name was Samuel and that he was originally from Georgia.  He would look up and smile as he spoke every few seconds as he buffed and wiped.  Although he was working, he was also engaging me in conversation and learning more about me.  In the 20-25 minutes that it took for him to buff my kicks, we discussed politics, local crime, downtown infrastructure, his wife, and even video games.  Yeah, Samuel is an avid Xbox gamer.  The experience really took me back to a time where customers and businesses actually had a relationship with one another.  Business actually wanted to work hard for your patronage and customers were loyal to good work.

After he finished the shine and I stepped down from the station, I gave him a firm handshake and handed him his fee plus a 50% tip.  I told him that I appreciated the conversation and that I would definitely be back.  He told me that in the future that I could even drop off my shoes to pickup later if I didn't have time to wait.  I responded, "where's the fun in that?"

He just laughed.  As I started walking away, Samuel shouted out to me, "you didn't even look at your shoes to tell me how they look!"

I replied, "Mr. Samuel, I didn't come for the shoes."

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