“What people call serendipity sometimes is just having your eyes open.” ~ Jose Manuel Barroso
“Who’s that?” I blurted out.
Seconds before, I’d been trying to convince myself that if he wanted to talk to me he would. But the photo he was having scanned and loaded to his flash drive was so old and interesting, and I thought that it might be one of his ancestors.
“It’s going in my book!” he said. But suddenly he needed to engage with the Staples Copy Place service lady and turned away from me as he passed her his picture and flash drive and some instructions.
“It’s gonna be big! Huge!” I smiled at his enthusiasm. For the next few minutes, as his work was being copied and scanned, his story unfolded. I listened to his dream as he described it. He had no doubts that it was going to be a hit. “We’re scheduling with Oprah….”
“Nothing’s here, Sir,” she called from her computer. I could sense his confusion – technology has to be used a lot in order to learn it, and today he was on an errand from his publisher, on his own, and a bit confused. Seems he’d made a mistake loading files to the device, and suddenly stood helpless and confused at an unexpected dead end.
“You can sit over there at that computer and open the file you were sent via email and copy the file to your flashdrive again.” I suggested when the woman who worked there was essentially telling him that there was no hope to get done what he came there to do. He’d have to go home and figure it out, she implied with her silence.
“Huh?” was the look he gave me. “Who are you?” “I guess I know why you’re here today, right now.” He let out another head-shaking chuckle.
Actually, work ended early and I remembered a chart I’d just finished for family history research that was rolled up in my front seat waiting patiently to be copied for later that night at the Family History Center. I decided to make the pit-stop before heading home.
“I’m always here. It’s just for you to figure out ‘why?” Did that just come out of my mouth?
He gave me a shocked but knowing look and laughed again.
Since his stuff was delayed until we could figure it out, it was my turn. “I need ten of these. Black and white,” I said and passed her the original chart.
“Come here. Help me. You do it.” He passed me his credit card and I got to pretend that I knew what I was doing. I’d never done what he believed I could do at a Staples computer. I’d only suggested it! But we went to work and soon had his files open and moved to his flash drive and then printed out a few pictures. Finally he replaced me in the seat in front of the computer and I went to check on my charts which were done and all over the floor in front of the copier.
Seems he just needed me to get him started.
“They’re done!” I called to the woman. My charts were pig-piled all over each other in a heap on the floor, looking miserable. She gathered them off the floor and passed them to me.
As I started to roll them up I hesitated a second time, wondering if I dare ask another question. He was so excited about what he was doing and I didn’t want to bother him. The woman helping me waited patiently for me to pay attention to her again. She needed to be paid, but that would have to wait.
“Do you do family history?” I knew he did because something from Ancestry.com was in his collection of files. I didn’t mean to see it, but their logo is hard for me to miss. I see it every day. If I admitted I’d seen it, I’d feel nosy, like I’d crossed a boundary of trust that was there when he let me into his emails and files.
“What?” he said, standing slowly and tilting his head as if I’d just asked him a math equation that he couldn’t process.
I asked again as I continued to neaten my pile of over-sized pedigree / family group charts, “Do you do family history?”
“Yes! That’s amazing that you ask that. I’m working on a relative who served in the Civil War.”
“Would you like a chart to help you?” I passed him one and he rolled it up after I wrote my phone number on the bottom, explaining that I was the director of the Family Search Center in Cataumet, a few towns over. He passed me a copy of the front and back cover of his new book that we’d accessed from his email moments earlier.
“I’ll be calling you!” he exclaimed, I immediately started to stress, wondering who I knew that specialized in military searches…nobody!
We left Staples together, me redirecting him away from dead ends he kept going down because he was so exited.
“Are you happy?!” I asked.
“Very happy! Every day is wonderful!” I looked at him, so grateful to have met him.
“So, you’re retired, but not from life!”
“Nope!” he almost shouted. Retirement wasn’t a word he connected with at all. I could tell.
“Then you’re blissful!” I promised with an arm flourish. He agreed and laughed again.
“What’s your name?” he asked as we headed for our cars.
“Mine’s Jim. I’ll be calling you for help, Betsy.”
But I already knew his name. It was on the picture of the front cover of his book. It’ll be for sale on Amazon next month. Look for it. I will.
[“Metamorphosis In Black”, by James Robert Butler, paperback edition, $20.]
Don’t you love how things work out? Jim got the help he needed and I get to help him with his family history!