People will sometimes surprise you. I will never forget what happened with a “Cash Sale” customer from Bluffton, SC, one time. This was an older couple who had a small variety store, across the river in Bluffton, SC, a few miles north of Savannah, and one or the other of them would occasionally come in to get a small order, and would just write us a check on the spot; they didn’t want credit. It was my job to take the payments.
One time, Miss Hilda was the one who came to get their order, and when she got to my office and reached in her purse for her checkbook, she realized with a start that she’d left it at the store in Bluffton, 45 minutes away.
At that point, I had two choices: I could hold the order until she came back with her check; or, I could let her have the order and just pay for it the next time she came to town. With no thought at all, I quickly decided on the latter, hoping I wasn’t making a mistake.
Two weeks or so later, she came by to get another small order ($300 or so), and brought not only her check for the last order, plus one for today’s order, but also a jar of her home-made pepper jelly, as a thank-you for waiting two weeks for payment on her last order! I thanked her sincerely, and she went on her way.
Now, I can’t eat hot sauces, so I knew I couldn’t eat her pepper jelly, but I knew someone who would love it – this little old Lebanese lady I worked with for many years who ran the Snack Bar at the Savannah Little Theatre. She liked to put pepper on everything, and lots of it! So I took it to Miss Maggie, and she was thrilled to get it.
I decided to return the favor, and two weeks later made a batch of my famous home-made fudge, to give Miss Hilda in return. Only, her husband was the one to come by get their next order. So I handed it to Mr. Morris, and asked him to give it to Miss Hilda, as a thank-you for the pepper jelly.
Now, Mr. Morris was a big fellow, well-fed. Two weeks went by, and when Miss Hilda showed up next time, I asked her if she enjoyed my fudge.
“What fudge?” she asked, surprised. I told her I’d given a can of maybe a dozen pieces to her husband, to give to her, when he was in, two weeks earlier. “Well, I’ll find out about that!” she declared. When she came back, two weeks later, I asked her if her husband had just forgotten to give her that can I had given him to take to her? “Oh, no!” she said. “He ate the entire can by himself, on the drive back to Bluffton! And never said a word about it to me at all!”
I just laughed and laughed…. And then made her another batch, two weeks later, so she would have one too. Good people, both of them, and long gone to their heavenly rewards. But I’ve never forgotten her kindness in bringing me that jar of her pepper jelly. Or Mr. Morris’s enjoying the can of fudge I’d made as a thank-you.
Another customer had a small country store in a little town south of Macon, a regular customer who paid on time every month. The summer I worked as a truck driver’s helper, one trip we made had his store on our route. Before we got back on the road, I asked to use his restroom, and he pointed me to the closet in the back storeroom where it was. At that time, the paper mill workers in the northwest were threatening a strike. That was where most of the country’s paper towels and toilet paper were made, at the time. So I should not have been surprised, when I went to use Mr. Ernest’s restroom that day, to find that tiny closet stacked high with rolls of toilet paper, floor to ceiling, on all three walls! He was prepared, by golly!
Those workers never did strike, and there never was a shortage, but I’ve never forgotten that day at “Mr. Ernest’s” Grocery & Hardware. I later came across a book at one of my wife’s college reunions on interesting places around the state, which had a picture of that fellow’s new store, next to the pile of bricks that was left when the old one was demolished, prior to building the new building in its place. Memories came back of that day in 1974 when we delivered that order, and I saw that store for the first time.
That was just one reason I bought that book. I still have it. It was full of interesting old pictures like that.
Life is full of surprises!
Rafe Semmes is a native of Savannah and a proud graduate of (the “original”) Savannah High School on Washington Avenue and the University of Georgia. He has resided in Liberty County since 1986, where he and his wife share their half-acre with six cats and assorted wildlife.