We are surrounded by heroes. Yesterday I discovered one at the local espresso stand. Or… I guess he discovered me, really. I had just ordered a mocha, and was waiting at the window to conclude the transaction, when I heard someone say in a gentle voice behind me, “I don’t want to embarrass you, but you have a tag on your pants.” I turned around and saw this young man smiling at me, sort of apologetically. “You have a… ” – he stretched his fingertips out from each other vertically – “…a tag on your pants.”
When he stretched his fingertips out from each other length-wise, I knew he meant I had one of those long plastic strips on my jeans that tells what size they are – I had just bought those jeans the day before and hadn’t realized the plastic strip thingy was still affixed to them. This was embarrassing in so many ways – one of the chief ones being that my jeans size is not something you would ever hear me bragging about, if you know what I mean – and I certainly wouldn’t knowingly walk around with it affixed to my pants for everyone to see.
I started laughing and peeled off the strip. “Thank you!” I said, holding out my hand to shake his hand. And then I discovered that he knew how to shake hands the proper way! – shake, roll the thumbs over, bump fists, and end with a retreating finger-wiggle. He was surprised that I knew how to do this and, by way of explanation, I told him I teach at an alternative high school, so… yeah… “And that’s all the more reason to thank you for telling me about the plastic strip on my pants! Can you imagine how that would have gone over at the high school?!” He and I both laughed together then at the image that conjured up for us.
The barista made a joke about me wanting to leave the plastic strip on my pants to show off that I had new jeans. I pointed out that the plastic strip gave the size of my jeans which is not something I’d really like to advertise to the general public, and she and my hero chuckled about that. “But we’ll just keep my jeans size between ourselves, right?” I asked my new friend. He nodded in the affirmative, and assured me he would never tell – my secret was safe with him.
By this time my mocha was ready and my bill paid. My hero and I introduced ourselves, and I learned his name was Pablo. I asked him if I could take his picture and write about his noble and heroic self in my blog, and he good-naturedly agreed.
I’d almost made it back inside my car, when Pablo yelled to me, “You forgot your debit card! Oh! And you forgot your backpack!”
“Thanks for taking care of me this morning, Pablo!” I said, grabbing my card and pack. And he smiled his hero’s smile and wished me a good day.