Out of Context

Josie Leavitt - February 9, 2015

Little kids are used to seeing me in one place: the bookstore. When they see me out and about running errands they get a shy smile and just look at me. It’s as if they had no idea I existed outside of the store. Really young children have been to call the store “Josie’s house,” which is adorable, but does speak to the number of hours I can be found there. I had a very funny exchange with one of my favorite three-year-olds on Saturday.

Stella and her family had been to the bookstore and gotten heaps of books. I’m off on Saturdays, so I missed her smiling face. But this day found me helping out friends who own a restaurant down the street from the store. I was working the counter during the busy lunch rush, taking orders and making coffees. Young Stella came in for lunch with her parents. She saw me at the counter and a very curious look crossed her face. It went from confusion (she kept looking back towards the bookstore) to laughter. I greeted her warmly and asked if I could take her order. Her parents and I were chuckling over Stella’s attempts to wrap her head around why I was at the cafe. “You work at the bookstore,” she said. I told her, yes, I did, but sometimes I worked here, too. “Why? How many jobs do you have?” I was just so charmed by her smiling face. I could almost hear her brain working trying to figure out why I wasn’t where she was expecting me. I said that the owners of the cafe were friends and they needed help today, so I helped them.

She came around and gave me a hug. Then she asked if I was in charge of the chocolate chip cookies. “As a matter of fact, today, I am,” I said. Her face lit up. I checked with her parents and they said she could have a cookie after lunch. Stella started pouting until I did what I do with kids who want a book: I asked her which cookie she wanted and we wrapped it up and put it in a bag which she retrieved at the end of lunch. It was the equivalent of putting a book on the special order shelf or noting it down in the wish list book.

As if seeing me out of context weren’t enough. PJ, my co-worker, came to the cafe to pick up lunch for herself and Sandy. Stella’s eyes just about popped out of her head when she saw her. “You’re here, too?” She asked. PJ said yes, Stella literally scratched her head and said quite simply, “My parents are here.” And she skipped back to her table. Every time I looked over while PJ and I were chatting, I noticed she was looking at us, taking it all in.

I think it’s good for kids to see shop staffers in other places, even if it rocks their little worlds. And I must say, Stella’s reaction to me working behind the counter was tame compared to adult customers who came in for lunch, saw me and then leaned in and whispered, “Are things bad over there, that you’ve taken a second job?” I just burst out laughing when I heard this and said I was just helping my friends out. But I’m sure the small-town rumor mill will be rocking with this info and I’ll spend much of next week assuring folks that things are just dandy at the store.

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