Roy was the cashier at the cafeteria in our building (HHS Headquarters) while I worked there in 2004-2006. Being a cashier doesn’t really require any special talents but Roy was in a unique situation. He was blind.
Now you may have known other blind cashiers in your day but Roy was the first one I had encountered. The federal government has a policy in hiring food service vendors to give special preference to businesses owned by the blind. Usually the owner or owners might be blind but the staff is not. In case you’re wondering, the cafeteria was a self service place where you would get your food items from a shelf or refrigerated case, or where you would get freshly grilled food from the grill and then carry it to the cashier. There were other cashiers but Roy was the one constant fixture at the cashier’s line. The process involved walking up to Roy’s counter. He could always sense when someone was there even if you didn’t say anything to identify yourself. You would then tell Roy what you had (you had to specific because a Coke from the fountain costs less than a bottled Coke, etc.) and he would enter it into his cash register as you identified each item. A voice on his computerized register would state what he was putting in and then when you had finished Roy would touch the total button and the machine would tell him what the total was. Let’s say you had items totaling $2.15. If you gave Roy a $5 bill you would tell him “That’s a five” and Roy would often come back with “Do you have 15 cents in coins?” That way he would only have to give you 3 dollar bills for change instead of a bunch of coins and two dollar bills. The other cashiers never seemed to put that much thought into it. Of course the encounter with Roy was all on the honor system. Roy never reached out to touch what you had purchased, just to verify things. He never questioned anyone else standing around him to verify your purchase either. And although there were often times when no one else was standing nearby, Roy always trusted you with your purchase.
The other aspect about Roy was that he was always smiling, happy and upbeat. He always had a good word to say, sometimes a good joke to tell and I always felt better about life after spending just a few moments passing by at the cashier’s booth. I don’t think I ever stopped to introduce myself to Roy by saying, “Hi. My name is Lamonte….” but whenever I encountered Roy it seemed like he recognized my voice and he spoke to me like I was an old friend. And I would never, ever want to cheat my friend Roy.
I’ve often wondered why Roy seemed to live his life without fear and with total confidence. Here was a man without sight living in a world that relied totally on sight in almost everything we do. And yet his confidence and certainty about who he was never seemed to weaken.
I’ve thought a lot about that since the last time I saw Roy and I think I might have part of the answer. The scriptures tell us “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” D&C 38:30 Most of us – or am I just describing myself? – live with some fear in our lives. “Will I lose my job to a downturn in the economy?” “Will my kids grow up to be good citizens?” “Will I be able to endure to the end?” We wonder about our status with the Lord. “Am I living the way I should?” And sometimes those fears show up in our demeanor. We aren’t as pleasant as we should be. We may miss opportunities to enjoy our experiences because we are worried about other, perhaps less important issues.
My closest friends and family know that I can be sort of volatile on certain occasions. But many people perceive me to be kind of easy going. But if you look closely I don’t have any fingernails because I am constantly, nervously chewing them and deep inside, I am a bundle of nerves. I sometimes find it hard to relax because I know there are things I should be doing or at least things I should be doing better. I have never been able to feel that “I am prepared” in any aspect of my life. I think I work hard and always have had a strong work ethic. I studied hard in school and in my professional life I put forth the necessary effort to get the job done. But so often I feel that I got by simply because I’m lucky.
I contrast my wavering demeanor with that of Roy and I know that I find it hard to be constantly pleasant and upbeat like Roy. To quote a famous military organization we need to “be the best that we can be” if we are to live without fear. I’m not really sure what that means but I think I have a long way to go. I know that Roy is always the best that he can be.
When I worked at HHS I was pretty unhappy for a few different reasons. When I would get really frustrated I would sometimes go up to the cafeteria to buy a soda just so I could spend a moment or two with Roy because his influence was so contagious. Now I often find myself saying “I really miss Roy.”