An uncomplicated kindness

My days are always busy; something that has never been more true than in the seven weeks or so since my partner’s heart attack. Extra chores around the house, providing care to the patient, keeping people up to date about his recovery and, more recently, catching up on work left unattended in the first couple of weeks of the crisis have meant my schedule is more packed than ever. As a result, I feel like I am racing and racing, only to get farther behind every day.

Friday was a typical such day for me. I sat down at my desk at 5 am to get through work more easily done free from the interruptions that are inevitable once normal people are awake. Following two morning meetings, I drove Peter to his doctor’s appointment, then raced home in time to do a noon-hour radio interview, followed by two more meetings. I also had to get to the drug store to collect Peter’s prescriptions (he’s still not allowed to drive) and, as I headed out, I figured I’d fit in a quick grocery shop before the forecast blizzard hit.

All went well until I got to the grocery store where, it appeared, everyone else in Kingston had had the same idea. The store was packed. I was shopping without a list (which I hate) and moving fast, while texting with my daughter as she drove back from Toronto, trying to beat the weather. I dodged around slower shoppers, quietly cursing those with rambunctious or whiny children, as I tossed what I needed into my cart. When I got to the checkout, I realized I no longer had my phone.

Full-blown panic.

I searched the cart and my person frantically: no phone. I then re-walked my route through the (very large) store three times, looking high and low, lest some kind soul had found the phone and put it in a visible spot. Nothing. I checked with customer service. No phone.

Home I went, in a right state, as Peter can attest. I tried to connect with an online agent at my telephone service provider, only to be further frustrated. At this point, I decided I needed in-person help, so headed to the phone store in the same plaza as the grocery store.

To the max

Enter Max, the hapless employee staffing the store when I arrived. I explained my situation, and Max took charge. He tracked my phone to another store in the plaza; which led us to the conclusion that someone had taken it. I was reluctant to approach a potential phone thief, with no doubt greatly exaggerated notions of possible terrible outcomes (as you will recall from a recent post, I am the queen of worst case disaster scenarios), so Max suggested we report the phone as “lost or stolen,” and then shut it down.

Once we did that, the now gray dot showing us where it was remained in place, and I wondered whether the foiled thieves had dumped it upon realizing they couldn’t use it. I mused out loud about going to look for it; but it was starting to get dark and, as I said to Max, I was a nervous, old-ish woman.

Without hesitation, Max got his coat and said he would come with me. I demurred; he insisted, and off we went. I mentioned that he shared a name with my oldest grandson; he told me he had always been his grandmother’s favourite; we shared a few other personal stories. When we reached the spot of the gray dot, there was no sign of my phone, so we trudged back to the store, with me now reconciled to buying a new one.

But, what, I fretted, of everything on that old phone? The photos, the phone numbers, apps, text messages? In short, my life? Don’t worry, said Max – maybe your data has been saved to the cloud. Given my propensity for online privacy and my foolish confidence in myself to never lose my phone, I doubted I had shown the foresight to purchase such protection, but I was prepared to trust in the possibility that Max offered.

A kind man

Over the next 90 minutes – most of which were after the store closed and Max’s workday should have ended – Max restored not just my phone service but my faith in the kindness that we so often don’t find in others.

He assured me that his late arrival home would distress only his cat, Pool, who would be annoyed by having to wait for her dinner but, he claimed, she needed to lose weight so a little delay would do her no harm. We exchanged cat stories. He fixed an old problem with my account that I had been trying to get the phone company to deal with for more than three years, with the result that my monthly bill is now $10 less than it was, even though I have an upgraded phone.  And, most miraculous of all to me, he retrieved all my data save a few hours’ worth of text messages from that afternoon.

This story, of course, is about the loss of my phone and its replacement. But mostly, it’s a story about kindness.

Max could have told me that there was nothing he could do for me other than to sell me another phone. He could have said I would have to return in the morning because it was closing time. But, he didn’t do either of those things. He didn’t minimize how upset I was. He didn’t patronize me. For heaven’s sake, he left the store to help me look for my phone! He gave me a chair to sit in while he got my new phone set up. He fixed problems with my account that had nothing to do with the loss of my phone or the purchase of a new one.

He made me feel like I mattered; not something Canada’s big phone companies are known for doing.

What, I thought, could I do to show my appreciation? Well, I gave him a five-star rating along with a glowing description of his help, so his supervisor will know what an outstanding employee he is. Then, like a good grandmother, the next day, I took him some still-warm-from-the-oven brownies.

As I recently read: “We are so thrilled to be angered about something that we want a new target for our rage every week.” In my work, it’s not hard to find those targets for my rage, and often they are men. My encounter with Max was an important reminder that there are many kind men out there, and for that — and my new phone — I thank him.

2 thoughts on “An uncomplicated kindness

  1. Great reminder Pam! One of the harms misogynistic and violent men heap on men like Max! Glad your phone problem was resolved!

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