Tuesday morning, I arrive at work earlier than usual. Before Aaron, which is a very rare occurrence. Great. I don’t have a key, so I’m stuck outside until he gets here. I really wish I’d taken the time to stop by Starbucks for a cup of coffee. It would’ve provided me with some much-needed caffeine and warmth.
While I wait, I can’t stop thinking about that Ben is coming today. He didn’t sound happy when he called back yesterday and informed me he’d be here by noon today. Apparently, his boss had ordered him to get off his ass and get over here and help us.
His voice had an insecure edge to it I’d never heard before and I got the feeling he wanted to ask me something, but couldn’t work up the courage. It was a noticeable difference from the quiet confidence I’ve picked up during the tech support calls, I got the idea he really knows his stuff and he’s clearly aware of it. Which really makes me wonder why he’s apparently so unhappy to come here.
Before I can think more about it Aaron shows up. I guess I’ll find out what the deal is with Ben soon enough. It’s 7:30 AM and he said he’d be here before noon. I hope he shows up early. We open at nine and by 11 things are usually getting crazy this time of the year.
As I get the stuff I assume I’ll need, including my laptop, together I keep asking myself why I agreed to do an on-site job. And panicking about whether the store is accessible. I should’ve asked Julie, but I didn’t manage to muster up the courage. I stuff the final cords into my backpack and zip it closed. It’s already a little past 10 AM and I promised both my boss and Julie to be there by noon. It’s time to get moving.
Twenty minutes later I’m on the subway and I spend the ride using the Google Maps app on my phone to figure out the best route from Grand Central to the store while I try to not get too annoyed by the people jostling me.
When I’m satisfied with the route I check the time before I slide my phone back into my coat pocket and zip it closed. Less than half an hour to go and I’ll be there. Hopefully I’ll be on my back home within the next hour or two.
By 10 AM things are getting crazy. An hour earlier than usual. There’s no sign of Ben as far as I know. Where the hell is he? Should I start expecting a call where he apologetically informs me he’s not able to make it after all? I sure hope not. It’s not time to panic yet, noon is two hours away. There’s plenty of time left for him to show up. I turn my attention back to restocking, despite the single register issue goods are flying off the shelves.
I’m almost there. The store is about half a block ahead, I have it in sight. As I get closer I’m relieved to see that the entrance is without steps and the store appears to be single level. Whew! That’s a relief.
A couple of minutes later I arrive. Another sigh of relief escapes my lips as I realize the store has automatic doors. I won’t have to fumble with holding a door open while wheeling through. Whew! Again.
I take a deep breath and wheel through the entrance. I just wanna get this over with and head straight for the registers that are just to the left when I enter. As I expected one of two are working and the poor girl working it looks really flustered. I don’t blame her as I eye the many people waiting in line to pay. It’s got to be a nightmare. I get that they’re desperate.
I soon realize that getting the girl behind the register’s attention isn’t an option. Between ringing up customer’s goods, taking payments, bagging and answering questions about returns and gift wrapping she’s swamped. The second register, the one I’m here to check out, is right next to the working one, but I feel like I should talk to someone in the store before I get to work.
I turn my chair and wheel into the store. It’s not as crowded as I feared, but it’s busy. I’m relieved that the main path seems to be clear and easy to navigate. I keep watching out for someone working there, but so far, there are no red uniform tees in sight.
Restocking and assisting customers keeps me occupied. I don’t have time to think about what Ben is like – or if he’ll even show up. At 11:15 my stomach starts to growl and Aaron gives me a ‘thumbs up’ to go to lunch as soon as I’ve cleared the pallet I’m working on. Judging from the number of remaining boxes and the size of them it shouldn’t take me too long. I dive back into work-mode, determined to go to lunch as soon as possible. If Ben shows up someone else will have to deal with it. I’m not dying of starvation to wait for an IT guy that has the liberty to show up when it suits him.
I’m about halfway through the store when I finally spot someone in a red uniform. As I wheel closer I realize it’s a girl. I guess she’s about my age, probably a little younger than me. She’s a brunette, a little curvy, but far from fat. She keeps what appears to be curly hear somewhat tame with a messy bun and with her red uniform tee she’s wearing dark skinny jeans and a pair of black Nike sneakers. She’s got a pretty face with full lips, a straight nose and dark brown eyes. I have a thing for brown-eyed brunettes. Always had.
Before the accident, I would’ve prepared some sort of opening line, but now I don’t bother. There’s no chance a nice-looking brunette will be interested in me. I don’t see how a too-skinny (yes, Mom, I know I need to put on at least 20 pounds as soon as possible since I've lost a lot of weight since I was injured) guy in a wheelchair is on any girl’s list. Time to get my mind out of the gutter and focus on what I’m here for; work.
I wheel closer to the girl and clear my throat as discreetly as I can muster before I speak.
“Excuse me,” I say to get her attention. It works and she turns toward me with a smile on her face. A service minded “how-can-I-help-you” smile, not a flirtatious “can-we-go-on-a-date” smile. The smile makes her even prettier.
“Yes? How may I help you, Sir?”
“Um… I’m looking for Julie or Aaron. Can you point me in the right direction?”
She gasps. “Ben?”