The old man placed a pair of jeans on the counter, pointing to them.
"Can I help you", my co worker asked? Once again he pointed to the jeans, but this time tapping the tag.
"What can I do for you?" He handed them to her, tapping the tag, and grunting some unintelligible sounds. His mouth appeared frozen in position.
"What.....do.....you......want", she asked speaking slowly?
By then, it was apparent to me, that the man couldn't hear her and couldn't speak. Yet she was talking to him like he was a slow wit.
"Write down what you want to ask", I said.
"Why?" She just didn't get it.
She got some paper and wrote down the question. His hand shakily took the pencil then he painstakingly wrote some numbers down.
"What does he mean", she whispered?
"It's a different size, go find these pants in another size".
While she searched for the pants, he studied me with his bright blue eyes. The eyes drew me in. They were so clear. It was like he was trapped within his own body. I helped the other customers while my coworker came back with a completely different style and color of jeans. I saw the frustration building in the man's eyes. He shook his head. She continued talking to him.
"I'm sorry sir we don't have the size you want. Do you want these instead?"
I've become frustrated with my coworker as well. He pleaded to me with his eyes. He seemed oblivious to the line of people behind him who were becoming fidgety and irritated.
"I don't know what he wants, I can't understand him!", she whispered in agitation. Whispered!
"I'll go look, you ring up these people"
She told him (in voice again) that I would go look. He watched me go with a puzzled look. I realized she was still speaking to him and not writing it down. I wrote "I'm going to find your jeans for you. I'll be right back. OK?" and then I smiled to him. He nodded to me, his eyes gleamed. The left side of his mouth seemed to twitch up slightly. It could have been my imagination.
I found what he wanted and hurriedly brought the jeans back.
"Are these the ones you want?"
He nodded again and took the pen from me. It took three minutes for him to shakily scribble the words " even trade?"
It dawned on me then that he had previously bought the first pair but they were too small.
"Do you have a receipt?"
He shook his head, but handed me his charge card anyway.The customers behind him were visibly irritated. I crossed my fingers as I punched numbers into the computer hoping to find the information I needed. Woo-hoo! I was able to do the exchange he wanted.
He slowly scratched out his name on the store copy of the exchange receipt. Then he saluted me, his eyes sparkling. His mission accomplished he turned and with slow shaky steps, headed out the door.
I watched him go in admiration and wonder. He must have to put up with a lot of crap from people who don't take the time to read his eyes. Yet here he was anyway getting on with his life and doing what needed to be done.
"Excuse me! I've been waiting a long time for you to finish with THAT man! I want you to ring me up unless you don't WANT me to patronize your store!" The angry buzz of a woman sounded in my ear.
I dropped the veil over my eyes quickly before they revealed what I was tempted to say, on the offchance she might look into my eyes and hear.