Key Chains “R” Us

Mayfield was my first hire as a new manager, the best words I can think to describe him was a “cool cat”.  He spoke softly, but with strong convictions.  He believed in hard work, and wearing a dress in public did not disturb his masculine security.  He held deeply a passion for indie music, and taught me much of a world I didn’t yet know.  All I could offer in turn was to mentor him in the way of leadership and sales.  In many cases we spoke with completely separate tongues, but that never disturbed our dedication and loyalty we held to one another.  Mayfield was a people person, but not a sales person, there is a vast difference between the two; something I had yet to learn as a retail manager.  Thought he was strongly dedicated to doing the job right, and even more importantly dedicated to helping me shine as a manager, no matter the task.

In a Thursday shipment we received a teakwood statue that was a silhouette of a faceless figure kneeling and thinking.  When we placed this heavy and expensive item upright we found its base wobbling, and the high priced item was not to the quality that I wanted for my customers.

Without hesitation he walked across the mall parking lot, and then across the home depot parking lot and back to simply retrieve a sanding sponge.  He then set himself behind the register and began to slowly gather a pile of dust as he consistently rubbed the uneven hump in the base.  He worked quietly, as I greeted the customers and ran the register.  So many customers would gather around and watch him in fascination.  Perhaps it was his facade of a flannel shirt over a tattered jeans with his afro and frayed beard, but something about him illuminated a hypnotic perception of artistic creation.  Something drove the customers to see beyond the reasoning that this was a retail store, and for a statue of this size would require an entire workshop of resources.  This would lead most associates that I read their blogs to lash out at the customers in disgust, create a show of their stupidity, or create their own blog of mockery.  To me, this transcendence was only a small sample of the magic that a true shopping experience could grant.

“What magnificent work” they would say in awe.

“Thanks,” Mayfield would simply respond.  Some would even stand and ask him how long he had been working on it.  “Just a few hours,” he would answer, quite honestly.  These were innocent answers, silently humorous amongst us, but no need for embarrassment.

But then a woman approached who watched him for quite sometime, and she started to ask him a multitude of questions, such as his inspirations, and how long he had known the craft. She gushed over his talents and went on and on over all the facts she knew of sculpting as people from her home had practiced along the streets.  The guilt started to set in with Mayfield as you could see his face go from a smile to serious as the woman spoke.  He had now planted himself at that awkward fork in conversation:  come clean or stay on the path of deceit.

Just then a boy approached, perhaps in his early twenties.  He was a frat boy, we could tell by the golf shorts meticulously paired with this “Bonehead” fishing shirt (despite our landlocked desert we were trapped in) and sunglasses worn as a backwards necklace.  “Do you know where I can get one of those key chains, you know the mountain climbing kind?”  (did I mention landlocked flat desert?)

Perhaps it was from withholding a days worth of witty comebacks and smart remarks for other customers, but when I looked back at Mayfield at this question his response was this:   “Ya, I know where you can get ’em,” he started as he acted as if he had to break his hours worth of artistic focus to humbly answer this question with serious consideration.  “Just head down to Key Chains Are Us.”

“Your kidding,” the boy answered, his voice hesitant.

“Na’ man, it’s there on 50th and Indiana you can’t miss it.”

The boy gave an indecisive chuckle.

Mayfield’s face was unwavering, he appeared completely unamused by the boys mockery.

In the silence the boy backed away, “50th and Indiana?”

“Ya man.”

We both burst into laughter at random the rest of the night, picturing that kid pulling up to find that Mayfield was indeed pulling his leg.


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