One thing I have learned about the retail business, is that you get to meet all kinds of people. Even as a specialty store, you really do get all shapes, sizes, and personalities coming in for a variety of reasons that, in my case, fall under the umbrella of running.
Friday night was busy. Okay, really - it's busy all of the time now. 'Tis the season they say. The night was winding up and as I was making some trips to reshelve shoes, I noticed a group of younger men dressed in matching red shirts, black shorts and baseball cleats. I had been busy with another customer, so a co-worker was talking with them and starting to help one of them with some shoes while the other four were milling and looking around.
There were no other customers in the store, so as I wandered over with the intent to empty the garbage at that station, one of the guys looked at my shirt and asked if I was a Derek Jeter fan. Need I say more?
With the floodgates of conversation opened, I forgot about emptying the garbage and instead started talking, joking and bantering around with this group of guys. One of them (he looked to be the oldest) was being fitted for some running shoes by my coworker, another one then asked if he could get fitted since he was going to start running as well. So I plopped down and started the process. Altogether there were 5 of these young men. The talk came fast, the jokes easy and a whole lot of laughing and teasing.
They had been playing softball and were killing some time between games. One dude for sure needed shoes, and they all needed dinner so they were taking care of all of it between their double header. They reminded me so much of my oldest son and some of his friends a couple of years ago, before he joined the Marine's and their softball team. I was curious about them, one looked vaguely familiar so I started questioning how old they were, where they grew up, etc since I was pretty sure we would know some mutual people.
Turns out they were from all different places, but not in my hometown. Okay, no biggie, we just kept talking and joking while we went through the fitting process. The kid that I was fitting had some very cool looking black onyx earrings that I secretly coveted and each of them had some pretty elaborate body art. All of them were physically fit and obvio had been hitting the weights. Perhaps they would have been the kind of guys that would cause some adults to pause and watch with caution. However, I felt none of that. Instead, I felt like I was looking at a group of my kids' friends and their friends who were hanging out at the house wanting something to eat. Very comfortable and a fun vibe going on.
At one point, the most talkative of the bunch asked me if I would ever play on a "Sober Softball" team. I didn't really know what he meant but without even looking up answered "of course I would. If there were such a thing as a sober softball team like yours, I would play". He grabbed my shoulder so I would look at him and said "Wait right here, I'll be right back". He took off running out the door while I laughed and reminded him that I wasn't going anywhere.
Literally within about 60 seconds, he had come back with a flyer and pamphlet that he placed in my face. I took them and looked at them. The initial picture was of a pack of cyclists. I laughed and called him out on the fact that they were CYCLISTS not softball players. He waved me off, and opened the pamphlet and told me to check it out.
"Our Mission is to establish and maintain sobriety by promoting lifestyle changes through Erasing addiction and Replacing it with health and fitness."
I scanned the wording as realization dawned on me. I then re-read it allowing the significance to soak in. These lovable ruffians were all recovering drug addicts. They belonged to a group based on their life experiences and lessons learned and were trying to share their understandings and strength in numbers by sharing their message (hmm....sound familiar my Mormon friends?)
I looked up and 4 of the 5 of them were strangely silent looking at me awaiting my reaction. I was a little speechless for a second since I would have never taken them for anything but a bunch of silly boys playing softball and then getting sloppy drunk on a Friday night. They were silly, and they were playing softball, but I had a feeling that not one of them would be getting sloppy with anything.
I looked at Mr Talkative and with my eyebrows raised said, "Dude! ? "
He smiled and replied, "Yeah, I know right?"
No further communication required. I understood and they all knew that I understood and that was enough.
I gave him the "rocks" and told them all how awesome I thought it, and THEY were. Mr Talkative reminded me that I had said I would play so that was basically a commitment and that they were meeting Tuesday night so he would plan on seeing me there.
Needless to say, the fitting continued for Mr Great Earrings, but now, they opened up some more, talked about their organization, and what some of their friends had accomplished. Mr Talkative had a nice "high and tight" haircut and when I mentioned it, he told me that he very much wanted to join the military but had too many felony counts so he would never qualify, no matter how clean he kept himself. Instead of being mad, blaming the system, or crying "foul" - this young man (actually 29 years old) accepted the consequences of his choices and was doing what he could to make his life better and be an influence for others that might be facing the same addictions and challenges he had been.
45 or so minutes later, Mr Oldest one had purchased his pair of new Nike Free's. Mr Great Earrings had decided on a pair but was afraid to pull the financial trigger and Mr Talkative was now my adopted son. Okay, all 4 of them that had been my entertainment were now adopted. As I was letting them out the now locked door, and MGE was apologizing for not buying (I didn't care), Mr Talkative reminded me that I had made a commitment and that "Normy's" are welcome at the meetings. He explained that really, it was a network of support for anyone. Addicts, family members of addicts, friends of addicts, or simply anyone who felt like they could benefit or add to the support and encouragement of others in overcoming addictions and becoming healthy.
I waved goodbye, told them thanks for coming in. They thanked me for my time, called me by name and one of them said that his next homerun was dedicated to me. : )
All the fun silly things, that young silly, BUT SOBER men do.
I am impressed. Beyond impressed.
I think I'm gonna see what happens next Tuesday night..............I might end up hanging with my new BFF's for some reality and a workout.