I want to tell you a story. So, when I was really little, I remember going to Disneyland with my family. I was one of those kids with the little bright pink autograph book, bouncing between my favorite princesses to get their autograph and a picture. In the middle of that book, there’s a picture of me with my favorite person from the park: a janitor named Art.
Looking back on it, I know it’s a little silly, but I was absolutely fascinated. I thought Art was the coolest person ever, and you know why? Because his name was ART. Art was my favorite subject in school, and that was his name! How awesome was that?!? I remember finding him a few times that day, and he cheerfully gave me stickers and hugs and signed my little book.
Fast forward to me at 24, working at my day job. You might remember I wrote an article earlier about my difficulties recognizing people (See: Hi, Have We Met?), and unfortunately, my day job involves seeing a lot of people all day, every day, and every one of them expects me to recognize them on sight. So one day, I had this man come in with a little girl, who tilted her head, looked at me and asked “Hi, do you remember me?”
My heart just about stopped. I racked my brain, trying to think of where I would have seen this girl before. A con? A volunteer event? Please, don’t tell me she recognizes me from the city’s Santa Float where I pretend to be Santa’s elf; I didn’t want to have to explain why my ears suddenly weren’t pointy anymore. Either way, I had to tell her I didn’t remember her, and she looked absolutely heartbroken. She turned to her dad and said “But we’ve been here lots, and I remember her! Why doesn’t she remember me?”
Her dad convinced her that I just didn’t remember her because she hadn’t introduced herself to me. So she did, and I committed it to memory. That’s the thing with me; I do learn, it just takes me a while. But I found that a huge motivator is DO NOT UPSET THE CHILD. The next time she came by, she smiled and waved, and I called her by name. I was determined to remember her from then on.
Then I got to thinking. I remembered the trip to Disneyland, and my friend Art the janitor. And I came to realize that to this little girl, I was the coolest person ever. That makes me feel pretty darn special. I wonder sometimes if that’s how Art felt all those years ago, with five-year-old me asking for his autograph next to Snow White.
My day job is not glamorous. It’s not a job that a lot of people look up to; I work long hours on my feet while I get yelled at, hit on, and even have things thrown at me (true story). It’s the kind of job that you start to see a really horrible side to people. But if there’s one thing that makes it worth it, it’s knowing that there’s a little girl out there who will always have a smile for me, and gets excited to see me because I’m her favorite person.
I can’t help but to feel like things really do come full circle. I used to look back and think I was such a cringey kid, having a fascination with a janitor at Disneyland, but now, I hope that I brought a little bit of light into what was probably not the greatest job for him. I hope he felt as special as I do every time that little girl comes by and waves at me.