Walter J. Rogers walked out of Human Resources carrying a plastic street sign with ROGERS printed on it. He had spent 35 years working for the streets department, and he had been given the “opportunity” to retire although doing so had not crossed his mind. He caught me in my normal hustle off to lunch, errands, wrestling with text, emails, my jewelry display ideas at the shop and reprimanding a snippy teenager. All these things were vying like warring soldiers for my attention.
“You know,” Walter says to me as I’m walking faster, trying to outpace him. “They don’t do parties anymore. It’s not in the budget.”
He had me at no party. I stopped and turned toward him.
“They don’t? That’s really a shame. Hey your sign there, its a killer!”
He smiled. So proud of a plastic sign in exchange for 35 years. Thirty-five years of getting up, going out in all kinds of weather in all parts of the city, day, night and at way less than anybody should have to work for.
“So….now you have the time for some fishing?” I sounded like a lame brain.
His face clouded over for a moment, and he said, “You know, I was never much of a fisherman myself.”
Oh well, there are lots of neat activities to do. The Senior Citizens Center here is great, I hear.”
“Yeah, I reckon I’ll find something to stay out of trouble….” his voice trailed off.
I didn’t know what else to say. What do you say to someone who is “let go” because all of a sudden they have X amount of years, are too maxed out on the pay scale, expensive to insure, and aren’t as quick as they were?
Walter turned to go.
“Thank you,” I said. He looked back at me. “Thank you for your hard work everyday for people who don’t even know who they should thank. Thank you for being someone who cares about this city and for making those roads a little better to get down.”
Walter nodded and tipped his plastic sign at me.
Then I too was off and running, racing against the clock, making my own mark on anonymity.
No one knows who cleans the floors
wipes the counter, and shuts the doors
No one knows who clips the rose,
cuts the grass and moves the hose
No one knows who does the dishes
and stands idly by with empty wishes
No one knows who makes silk flowers
slowly winding away the hours
Where then lies the silver key
leading from anonymity?