“Angie,” I said, “you’re not a talkative fellow

on

Angie laughed. “You’re not exactly a talkative fellow,” she said.

I couldn’t imagine her talking to customers. She never did.

“I like to say ‘the customer is always right,’” someone had once said.

“Yeah,” Angie replied, “and even if your customers call you out, you’d
have to pay the price. So, I get it. I’ve known all my life.”

“You’re a good person,” I said, thinking back on how she had defended
me when our supervisor’s name was mentioned. “Are you good at your job?”

Angie thought about it. “I was good at my job until I got here,” she
said. “And now you’re a little more good than good.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I’ve learned a few things.”

“Like what?”

“Like, I like making money,” I said. “And I like this job.” I explained
how my coworkers had treated me when I suggested that the emergency exit gate
should not be used.

She knew exactly what I was talking about. Angie and I had been the two
train station managers who had not used the emergency exit gate for more than
5,000 trips. We had let customers out by the gate just about every time. When
I spoke against the practice, the other two managers agreed with me. The two
men, whose names I’ll never know, were the only ones against the practice in
the entire station.

I remembered how I had felt when I learned that one of the two men had
refused to use the emergency exit gate for the first time, and that had
resulted in all 10 of our customers being stuck in the station during rush
hours. I had never felt bad about it before. But it was almost the opposite
with Angie. As a train station manager, I had never made anyone late or
disrespectful the way Angie had. I remembered the time when one of the other
managers had allowed me to park in the space assigned to me. I had to
unlock the car and walk to the customer entrance to unlock the door and get
repositioned to the customer.

I had never been late before, but I had certainly let my customers wait a
longer time than they had to. When Angie had suggested, when we were all
together, that a different way of doing things was needed, I had almost
defeated her. For a moment, I had hated her and thought that she wanted to
destroy my station.

“And where should we park this evening, Angie?” I asked.

“Let me think,” she replied.

I felt a tinge of doubt. Then, I thought of something. Another of our
train station managers, who had been the best manager of the three, had agreed
to let two of our train station customers and me take the train to the airport
to return a bag we had picked up. The customer got on at the other end of the
station, and I took a car and went with him.

“I know,” I said, “we’ll park up the street and get off here.”

“I’m just wondering about getting off in the middle of the road,” she
said.

“We’re a small station,” I replied, “so I figure it’ll be fine.”

“You can park in front of the station and get off here,” she said. “This
will be our parking lot.”

“I’m not sure how we’ll get out of the station,” I said. “Do you see
when these big trees come along, we have to go around them or do we have the
option of just walking out the door?”

“Okay,” she said, and after the train passed through the yard, we went
down the stairs and entered the train station.

It was almost 7:00 PM when we got off at the airport. The train station
manager had asked the customer what time he needed to get out. My train was
about 8:00 PM, so the man had left the station at 8:30 PM. Our train had left
at 7:10 PM and would leave at 7:15.

“So,” my coworker said, “if the two of you want to go to the airport, you
should get back on at the same time we did.”

I was not exactly happy about what had occurred. “I could have been a
little nicer,” I said.

I looked at the clock. It was almost midnight. As I looked out the train
door, I saw only two trains. I got off quickly and waited to be seen as
customers, including my one-time customer, left.

As I waited, I noticed that Angie had sat down and had a cup of coffee.

“Are you okay?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said. The only time I had ever asked her that question, she
had said, “Oh, yes.”

***

I went to the window next to that of my coworker and looked out. There
were two trains, with the second one in front of the first. I sat down next to
the second train and looked out. As I watched, a man in uniform, who was
holding a long handled cane, walked by.

“I’ll be damned,” I said to myself.

The second train slowed a bit as it entered the station. The man in
uniform smiled as he passed by.

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