I had been working in the gift shops at the Big Fancy Resort for a year when Lizzie was hired.
Lizzie was about my age. She had long, straight hair that she occasionally wore in a side braid. She lived in Montford with some roommates. Every day she brought bizarre snacks related to her detox cleanse. One day it was a quart of water, lemon juice, and ginger. Another day she had a plastic container of cashews submerged in water. She explained the medicinal purposes of these snacks in her signature slow monotone.
None of the gift shop clerks were quite sure what to think of Lizzie.
Lizzie counted her cash drawer twice at the beginning of each shift and twice again at the end. On the night shift, she would leave rambling, urgent-sounding notes for the morning clerk to find. Sometimes the clerks read these to each other for entertainment purposes.
A woman was here looking for a gift for her boss's daughter's best friend. She was so nice. We talked for a long time. Her favorite food is watermelon! She did not find a gift. I really hope she finds one. If she comes back, show her the journals because I totally forgot to show her those and she might have liked them. Tell her I said hi. I hope you have an excellent day!
Lizzie once left a co-worker a five-minute-long voicemail thanking her for swapping shifts and elaborating upon what a kind deed that was. Another co-worker found her meticulously lining the sales counter with dozens of perfectly measured squares of tape.
The Big Fancy Resort was not exactly known for its amiable clientele. A typical customer would not even let you say, "Hi, how are y--" before barking "JUST LOOKING" and proceeding to not make eye contact with you ever. Others would ask for help finding some vague item--a popular request was, "I need the perfect gift for this person I don't know anything about at all"--and then dismiss all your suggestions with an exasperated, "No, not that." At the other extreme, some people would bring you the most generic item possible--a cheap scarf made in China, a ring imbedded with oversized plastic rhinestones, a nightlight shaped like a daisy--and say, "Tell me more about this," as though expecting a touching backstory involving an underprivileged Cambodian orphan who overcame the odds and started her own rhinestone factory using only organic, sustainable materials.
These people were spoiled, cranky, demanding, entitled, and petulant. And they loved Lizzie.
They loved her because she would launch into a ten-minute speech praising anything they displayed even the slightest interest in. She would extoll the most trivial item as though it contained hidden wonders. She was oblivious to curt tones and rude remarks.
One day I walked in to find Lizzie brandishing her plastic container of cashews and water in front of two customers, who were listening raptly.
The managers were thrilled with all the positive comments guests left about her. We had so much fun talking to Lizzie! Lizzie was so helpful! Lizzie was extremely knowledgeable!
Lizzie and I bonded unexpectedly one baumy night in early autumn. We closed one of the stores together, and just as we were ready to leave, we noticed a moth fluttering around one of the lights.
I looked up at the moth, batting its dusty wings against the imitation Craftsman light fixture. It had drifted into this place on an ill-fated air current, and now it would be trapped here until it shriveled into a dry husk and died.
Not long after that, Lizzie left the key to her cash drawer lying unattended in the break room and got fired. I envied her. She was set free, like the moth.