The Aura of Aurora Avenue

I was at one of those big box grocery stores the other morning. It was pouring rain. Not the normal misty rain that Seattle normally gets in the winter. It was a downpour. I was wheeling my cart of groceries to the car and passed a man pushing a long line of carts into the store. He was in one of those yellow reflective vests outside workers wear and I immediately recognized him as an employee. When he passed, I saw he was old. I’m pretty old myself but this guy either had been aged by a super hard life or was considerably older than I am. He and I had a brief connection — very brief, due to the pouring rain. He said something about the weather and laughed cheerfully. I saw he had no teeth. He didn’t look like anyone in search of pity but still, I felt a combination of sadness that he, in this stage of life, was working that particular job — and gratitude to the company, for being enlightened enough to hire him. It’s not my favorite store because it’s so large but I find it fascinating because of the different ethnicities of some of the people who shop there. I like hearing languages that have absolutely no familiar sounds and sometimes seeing someone in traditional indigenous dress. Down the road, I love the hole-in-the-wall Cuban take-out place and the restaurant with the best Vietnamese Pho I’ve had anywhere. Back to the cart man: I found myself coming up with various scenarios. This guy had previously shopped — or maybe even shoplifted — from the store and was working off a debt. Maybe he didn’t work there at all. Maybe he found the vest discarded by a disgruntled employee and was playing a joke on us all. Maybe he was part of a work program sponsored by an institution like the Salvation Army (with whom by the way, I had a wonderful musical experience over the Christmas season, but that’s another story). No matter. He enjoyed what he was doing and I sure loved seeing his smiling face on a soggy day. There’s an interesting story in there somewhere, I’m sure of it.


Photo courtesy 652234  at


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