The 7-11 Girl
I usually wake up very early Sunday morning. I don't set an alarm clock(haven't used those hellish devices for decades), but I want to get to the 7-11 store next door before they sell all the Sunday newspapers.
During the week, I read the online edition of the local daily newspapers, but on Sunday, I want the tangible thing made from slaughtered trees. Get the printers ink on my fingers since it was in my blood for so many years. I used to lay out and edit the Sunday edition of a daily newspaper in South Florida, so it's special to me.
Anywho, it's still dark when I amble to the 7-11 where a particular girl clerk always seems to be working the graveyard shift. I'm tempted to feel sorry for her because I worked graveyard shifts in the Air Force until they nearly killed me, but she doesn't need my pity. She acts as happy and contented as a puppy.
She is tall and lanky with blue eyes and long red hair tied in a ponytail. She looks very Irish and she's still wearing green the day after St. Patrick's anniversary. If I had to guess her age, I would say 19.
She's never too busy to talk to a customer or offer help finding something in the store. She obviously cares about customers and people in general, which is rare among retail workers today. I know she brightens up my ofen-gloomy Sunday morning, reminding me of a female Celtic Buddha.
Only one thing makes me nervous about her. She has a tongue ring. That piece of "jewelry" disturbs me or excites me in a perverted way (since she is young enough to be my grand-daughter.) Either way, the feeling is not good. I tease her about the tongue ring because I don't understand why young people puncture body parts to wear things like that. To me, it seems masochistic or uncivilized or somehow unnatural.
She endures my teasing good-naturedly because nothing seems to bother her. She's happy and her happiness is contagious. She has more spirit of aloha than a combination of the last 20 Hawaiians I've met.
This morning she was sitting on a wall outside the 7-11, taking her break and talking to a local girl. Suddenly, she threw up her arms and shouted something with a big smile. Then she noticed me and waved, still smiling. Her unrestrained gesture made my whole day better.
This sunbeam of a girl is a member of the latest generation of young haoles (white people) to come to Hawaii. They are different than my generation which arrived decades ago when life was much more laid back in the islands. They accept Hawaii as it exists today -- hectic and mercenary -- because they never experienced the old days when everything was simpler. They are simply grateful to be here now, unlike us codgers who miss the halcyon days. We were paradise junkies while they are realists.
I imagine this girl working the graveyard shift so she can take college classes and go surfing during the day. She bends her personal life around a mixture of career goals and fun, burning the candle at both ends without any adverse effects. I envy her. She's happy and she enjoys the current version of Hawaii more than I do.
Maybe she and the other members of her generation will get along with locals much better than my generation did after things changed and racial conflict became commonplace. I hope so because aloha is the heart of Hawaii. This fragile ineffable quality seems to have disappeared in locals and taken up residence in this girl and other young haoles like a lost spirit searching for any port in a storm.
"The earth was made round so we can't see too far down the road and know what is coming." -- Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa