It’s amazing how a phone call out of the blue can make one’s day.
This week I was sitting at my desk writing when the phone rang. I figured it would be someone with a newspaper question or a call that I would need to direct to our circulation or classified department. But I was wrong on both counts.
It was a voice from my past; a man I had not spoke with in a number of years. We had worked together when Riverside (part of the Penn Traffic building) was in DuBois back in the late 1970s. I had just graduated from DuBois Area High School and would be attending the Penn State DuBois campus that fall. Upon graduation I had first gotten a job at the Arena Restaurant, which was once located on Long Avenue (across from Fat Kids), before moving over to the job of packer at Riverside. It was there that I met Harry Tost.
I only worked at that particular Riverside for two years, then I was off to University Park to finish my education. I continued to work for the company at its Nittany Mall location in State College for the remainder of my college years. Those last two years were spent in bakery sales.
One of the lessons I learned while working for Riverside was customer service. Not much emphasis is placed on that it seems in today’s world. We greeted people with a smile and offered assistance in carrying bags. We were pleasant when speaking with customers, for as Harry reminded me as we chatted; it was because of the customers coming to the store that we could be paid a wage.
I was surprised that Harry remembered me. He had taken the time to make a second long distance phone call when he learned I was no longer working out of the DuBois office but now worked out of Brookville. Harry lives in Scranton nowadays.
In his early 80s, and with all of life’s ups and downs that have happened from our time at Riverside to now, he still remembered me, telling me I always greeted people with a smile, was friendly and sent them on their way with a smile as well. His comments just reinforced the fact that how we treat others makes a difference. It also leaves a lasting impression on both those we are speaking to and those who may be observing our actions.
As Harry said all the jobs at Riverside made a difference. I may have been a packer or a bagger, whatever the term used nowadays to describe the person who waits at the end of the checkout to bag the groceries and help the customer take them to their vehicle, but I wanted to do a good job. I look back on those years fondly. We had fun while we worked but we always took our jobs seriously. I remember at slow times, we’d straighten shelves, climb ladders to replace the bulbs in ceiling lights and one year we even built a float in the back room after our work shifts. Our boss ordered pizza for us and we made a large U.S. flag for the parade. We didn’t ask if we were getting paid for the work on the float. We did it for free and were excited to be in the parade that year.
Harry remarked to me that people don’t even count change back to a customer nowadays but simply say, ‘Here’s your change.’ How much more time does it really take to count people’s change back. It serves the purpose of making sure both parties know the correct change was given and it assures the customer that they received the correct change. I still count change back when I’m handling a cash exchange at the counter today.
It’s the little things that sometimes make the biggest differences in our lives and in how others view us. Fellow journalist Patti Slaughter talked about that in her column in the Jeffersonian Democrat this past week and Harry’s call is a prime example. I am still smiling as I write this just thinking that he took the time to call to just say hello and let me know he remembers me from our days at Riverside and that what he remembers is how I treated people.
I may not have won a million dollars this week but Harry’s call sure makes me feel as if I did.
And Harry, I guess it just comes down to one little rule we all learn as youngsters – Do unto others as you’d have done to you. That Golden Rule is definitely one to live by.