A lesson in what it means to be human: Inside the Sprint store

The young woman was overweight and dark-skinned.The old man walked in on a cane. His thin white skin was pocked with bruises and red and blue age-scars.
D. Barbara McWhite
D. Barbara McWhite

The young woman was overweight and dark-skinned. Her long dreads were piled on top of her head and tied off with a funky scarf, the ends of which hung down around her large tarnished gold earrings. She wore blue jeans, a blue and white store logo, t-shirt and Nikes.

The old man walked in on a cane. His thin white skin was pocked with bruises and red and blue age-scars. His hair hung from under his cap, thin, straight and greasy. His clothes were the old-folks summer uniform – a weathered gray t-shirt, wet from sweat in the back, stained khaki shorts, dusty black sandals and black socks stretched almost to his knees.

Her name was Shar. She was assigned to help me replace, for the third time, an iPhone I never wanted but desperately needed after my old flip-top finally bit the dust.

It was while she was helping me that the old man walked in.

“Hey, Mr. Gary,” she greeted him with a smile. “How you doin’ today?”

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“I’m doing alright,” the old man replied. ” But I need …”

“I know, Mr Gary. Let me finish helping this lady and I will be right with you. Sit right there and I’ll be with you soon.”

And when her colleague asked if he should help the old man, Shar replied, “No. He’s mine.”

Then, turning back to me, she whispered: “Mr. Gary! He’s my guy. Doesn’t want anybody to help him but me. He comes in here every week. He has a touch of dementia and his wife has it worse. Comes in here for me to program his phone so that his wife can call and talk to him. Doesn’t want anybody to help him but me. I program it every week, but he gets it out of whack or forgets how to use it, and I have to show him how to use it again.”

“How does he get here,” I asked her.

“Drives a big old Buick. Whips it in here like a pro. Every week!” she said with a chuckle.

Pretty soon she took my phone away to transfer my few contacts and pictures. And while I waited, she waited on old Mr. Gary.

I watched them from where I sat.

Friends… from different generations, different races, different places in life.

They sat close. They laughed out loud. I saw her touch him lightly on his shoulder. He looked in her eyes as she explained several times…”Press 2, then this key and you will be able to…”

“Can you write that down for me,” he finally asked.

“I sure will, Mr. Gary”, she answered patiently.

So I watched them. My eyes misting over. An unbidden smile creasing my face.

When she called my name, finally saying my phone was ready, I hugged her. Long and hard! And whispered in her ear, “I love what you’re doing for that man. You are a special young woman. God bless you!”

And since that day, I haven’t been able get them out of my mind…

D. Barbara McWhite grew up in York County, S.C., and lives in Orange Park, Fla., with her husband and cat Rover.