"Man, what kind of person are you?"
I've never forgotten those words.
I was fifteen, working underage at Montgomery Wards at the Evergreen Plaza; it was just after closing time, and I wanted to get out and home.
Suddenly, a middle-aged man came rushing into the Hardware Department, where I was closing out the register.
"Can you help me, sir?" It always surprised me how grown men would call me "sir", young punk who had no life experiences.
There was an upset in his voice, an urgency.
I put the bank bag back into the register and moved to close the register drawer. Robberies were not unheard of, and I didn't know if this was some kind of scam. Maybe this man wanted to get me away from the register and grab the bag, or have an accomplice grab it. I looked around and there was nobody else lingering about.
I was alone in the department, as I was closing out, and they were already starting to turn off the lights.
It must have occurred to the man that he had scared me. He brushed his hands down his sides and composed himself.
"Sir, I need to buy a lock. Two locks," he said.
"We're closed," I said.
This was true. The register was cashed out and the sales tally rung out.
"Please," he said, "I need the locks. We were broken into today and I have to get some locks and put them on the doors and go to work."
I looked at the man. He was dressed in some type of coveralls, had a thick build and looked nervous and upset.
"I can't," I said.
I could. I had before. But I wanted to get home. I would be breaking no rules
I'd like to say I was scared by the man, suspicious, but I wasn't. I looked into his brown eyes, and even at fifteen, I could tell he was not a liar. He was an upset man. A hard working family man.
I grabbed the bank bag and stepped out of the register and started towards the back.
"Sorry, we are closed," I repeated, as if this would signify some type of absolution.
As I left the department I saw one of the store security guys walking towards the man.
"Sir, you've got to leave now," said the security guy.
The man gave up. Looking behind me I could see him throw up his arms.
I quickened my pace towards the back.
I heard the man call out, "What kind of person are you?"
His family probably to stay up all night, on guard against another break in.
That man changed my life.
His voice echoes in my ears now every time I have to take a hard decision. He taught me that there should be no locks on helping a person.
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