I clocked out and drove down the hill on my way home tonight, stopping in at the gas station on the corner to pick up a Coke and a lottery ticket. I placed my Coke onto the counter along with the latest issues of Nashville Scene and All The Rage that I had grabbed on the way in. As he was ringing up my purchase, the young immigrant clerk asked me a question. It wasn't all too weird of a question, but something about it took me by surprise.
"Do you know Mark Twain?" he asked.
Maybe it was the phrasing of it that forced my brain to take the extra seconds to analyze it. Not, 'Do you know of Mark Twain?' but 'Do you know Mark Twain?' - as if this Mark Twain is a guy who works with me, a dishwasher or a busboy at the hotel. I'm also not used to too much talking at the convenience store. I'm a regular and he and I have exchanged pleasantries before. Some nights he asks me how my night's going, sometimes I remark on the song playing on his radio, but that's about the extent of our conversations. We're friendly but busy.
"The writer?" I finally responded.
"Yes," he replied. "He said something about kindness."
I love this guy. My day had been long, hard and I'd made hardly any money to show for it. I'd stopped in to buy two things I really didn't need but now I was enjoying a role in an unexpectedly intriguing exchange.
"I like what Mark Twain said about kindness. I think he said, 'The language of kindness is one that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.' Something like that. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, right?"
"Yeah," I answered. "Great book. I hadn't heard that quote before. I like that. Thanks for sharing that with me."
We smiled and I noticed that another customer had walked up in line and was ready to checkout. With a wave and a friendly goodbye, I made my way out to my Honda to continue my trip home. The workday had pretty much been a bust, but I was thankful to have shared a small moment with my friend at the gas station.