15 Dec 2012

10 Days to Christmas

"That would be seventy-nine sixty, please."

"Okay, here's my credit card."

The queue's getting longer. He better work faster or the boss would harp on him.

"Thank you, have a nice day!"

"You too."

Oh goodness, there doesn't seem to be an end to the line! Some customers were getting visibly annoyed, staring at their surroundings, looking at their watches and phones, humming and hawing...

Gaaah! I wish somebody could just take over for even a few minutes! 

Maybe it wasn't such a great idea to take this job, because he didn't consider the rush of people that would appear around this time of the year. For some reason he completely neglected the near inevitable scenario of the Christmas shoppers flooding the departmental store. His mind was too transfixed on desperately finding a way to earn his living independently. 

Was he too hasty to move out? He was too swamped in the work to have second thoughts now.

Finally! The sight of a familiar colleague meant the end of his shift. 

"Whoa! You've got quite a lot on your hands!" she commented upon seeing the row of shoppers, who were quite annoyed already.

"Yeah, it's really crazy here– sorry ma'am! Here's your change!"

"Don't worry, I'll take over from here. You can take your leave now. Don't forget to punch out!"

"Phew! Thanks, Miranda! Good luck!"

Good grief, I can't escape the crowds even when I'm not working! 

The food court was abuzz with more of the frantic shoppers taking a break from their retail hunts. He couldn't escape his work it seems, especially not during the festive period. At least he wasn't still stuck like a relentless robot back at the cashier counter. Poor Miranda.

"Sorry, do you mind if I take a seat here?"

He glanced up. A white-haired man was carrying a tray next to him.

"Oh sure. Go ahead."

"Thank you! Boy, it's crazily packed in here, huh?" 

"You have no idea, unless you worked in the same job as me. These people just invaded the whole place!"

"Oh right, I didn't notice your uniform! You're one of those cashiers at that store... so you're Greg, right?"

He quickly glanced back at the name tag still pinned on the front of his shirt. "Uh.. yeah."

The white-haired man cut off a piece of the cutlet and ate it. "Hmm... not bad."

"Yeah, the food down here is certainly above average. Guess that's one of the few perks of working around here."

Another bite of the cutlet. 

"You don't sound like you wanted this job in the first place. Were you forced into it?" 

Greg released a small sigh.

"Not exactly forced, just that I was stupid and rushed into things too quickly."

A third bite. 

"Rushed into what exactly?"

Another sigh.

"Erm... Maybe I was trying too hard to impress my parents. To show them that I wasn't some spoilt brat who could only depend on his caretakers his entire life. They didn't seem to have faith in me, they didn't believe I'd be anything like a responsible adult. It was always 'Greg, when will you stop lazing around and be a man for once?' 'Greg, can't you be more like your diligent father?' 'Greg, when are you actually going to start working your ass off???'

"I guess I was so sick of that, that I couldn't wait to get away from my parents and live alone... but perhaps they are right. It's only a few months, but I'm struggling to take care of myself..."

The white-haired man suddenly stopped in the middle of his eating. 

"You're judging yourself too hastily. It's normal for people to take some time to get used to new environments and lifestyles. Some take longer to get accustomed, and that's perfectly fine!"

Greg was more skeptical rather than comforted. "Come on, I've already been reprimanded by my boss more than once already! And more often than not, I deserved those scoldings because I could have prevented those mistakes easily."

The white-haired man just smiled.

"Actually, I bumped into your colleague friend just now."

"...huh? You mean Miranda?"

"Yup. She said she was taking a little breather, saying she was really amazed by how the person in the previous shift managed to keep the queue under control. She said for an employee who's been only around for a few months, this guy was a fast learner and a meticulous fellow! She also said many of the co-workers think he was one of the most hardworking employees the store has had. And that the boss is just as equally hard on everybody, so he shouldn't be too depressed about himself."

Greg's eyes widened a bit. Was he really not as horrible as he thought? 

"You can go ask her yourself. She didn't want to tell you directly, fearing you might get too arrogant and become negligent at work, or even harass the other workers instead." Then the white-haired man resumed to finish his meal.

Both kept quiet for a bit. Greg was still in the middle of digesting this piece of news, while his temporary guest was digesting his cutlet. 


"Hmm? For what?" The white-haired man just swallowed the last remnant of the cutlet.

"Well... for letting me know about this. I feel a lot better. I don't have any regrets on my decision now."

"That's good to hear! Come to think of it, would you still be stuck here this Christmas or would you return to your parents' place to celebrate?"

Greg pouted his lips. "I think they're still pretty mad at me for ditching them. I think it'd be better for me to just send them cards and gifts via the mail."

The guest fiddled with some strands of his snow white hair. 

"That's quite unfortunate... perhaps I can give you an extra place at my Christmas party!"

"Wait what? You're inviting me, a stranger, to your party?"

"We're more than just strangers now! You don't have to feel guilty about coming over to my place on Christmas night! However, I also don't want to force you to attend this if you aren't willing or have other plans..."

"Are you kidding?!? I'll love to come over! I can't spend my savings on anything for Christmas, so this opportunity to still join in the fun is almost a godsend! Thank you so muc– silly me! I haven't asked for your name this whole time!"

The white-haired man pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil from his coat pocket. "Don't worry! I'll write my name and address down here."

Was this real? This was such a bizarre act of kindness, it almost seemed like a dream. Greg couldn't help but grin ecstatically. 

"So your name is Dominic... oh, your house isn't too far off. I should be able to be there!"

"That's good. It was certainly nice meeting you Greg! Merry Christmas!"

The two stood up and shook hands. Greg had the urge to just give a hug to express his gratitude, but, well... it might have been awkward with the swarm of customers sitting around them.

Greg was still awestruck as he stared at the figure of the samaritan, growing smaller as Dominic moved into the distance.

I better find something nice to wear that night...