I had a nice, short conversation with a man named Jaime this morning. He’s one of those people you see at work nearly every day, but if you work in a building with a lot of large companies as we do you tend to just nod and smile as you pass in the hall. You rarely say anything more than just, “Good morning.”
Jaime and I nod and smile in the men’s room pretty much every day because that’s his office. He’s the janitor and doesn’t mind being called that. I know because I asked him.
I guess Jaime’s work schedule pretty much stays the same every day because my schedule stays the same. We usually meet during the 7 a.m. network news.
After nodding and smiling and saying “Good morning” to Jaime every morning I finally asked him his name a couple of weeks ago. He told me, I gave him mine and then we both smiled and went on about our business. He was cleaning toilets and I was about to use the urinal. Guys don’t shake hands in men’s rooms.
This morning I saw Jaime again and the fact that we had swapped names made me feel like I could talk with him for a moment, so I did.
“Jaime, how are you?” I began.
“Good. How are you doing?” he replied.
I told Jaime I was fine, thank you, and then I told him I’ve noticed him because he’s always smiling and seems happy. He told me he is happy and he seemed amused by the fact that we were talking. After all, I was his “customer” in a manner of speaking.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys cleaning restrooms,” I said, “but you’re the only one who always seems to be smiling,” I explained.
This is probably TMI as we say these days, but this part of our conversation actually happened while I was facing the wall tending to business. Jaime was wiping down the counter and sinks. My point being we weren’t actually making eye contact just yet.
When I was able to address him face-to-face I said something like, “I just wanted you to know I see you every morning and you seem happy.”
“Yes,” he said, surprised but pleased. “I’m a happy person.”
I said, “It shows and that’s unusual. I like that.”
As a native Californian instigating conversation with a stranger is nearly unthinkable but I’ve been in Texas for seven years now and it’s fun.
Jaime beamed and thanked me. Then he felt bold enough to brag a little.
“I’m just happy,” he told me. “I have a nice family and friends and I have a job. Why not be happy?”
He seemed very proud of his job and his happy life. I think he was also glad that I had talked with him.
Jaime made my day and I think I made his.
PS. Three weeks after I wrote this it has suddenly occurred to me that the phrase, “Pleasantries in the men’s room” could be seriously misinterpreted and is no proper title for anything proper. I could change it but I see no point, really. If the headline offended you — or was misleading in a disappointing way, I apologize. — DW 5-8-19