Omigod, so today I was talking to Mary, our custodian. She’s an older woman, clearly has had some rough years. But she cleans my room every afternoon and it’s always good to suck up to the custodian. Anyway, my teacher chair broke the other day. It’s a wheelie chair and one of the wheels finally snapped off completely.
I have a shitload of copies to make and I like to get in the copy room right after school, but walk past Mary in the hallway about to start vacuuming. (They have these cool backpack vacuums that look like Ghostbuster equipment)
We start chit-chatting and she asks about my weekend and tells me about hers blah, blah, blah. Finally I tell her my teacher chair broke and she’s like “Oh! I think I have one in storage.” Then her cell phone rings. She says, “Oh!, hang on, that could be my son” and looks at the screen and makes a confused face. She answers and I hear
“Hello? Oh! hi Sandy. Uh oh. JOHN?!” then her face cracks and I can clearly see it’s bad news. She says, “How? When? Okay, okay, yeah. Yeah. Alright. I will.” And she hangs up and starts to cry.
To be honest, I’m not a very affectionate person. I don’t like touching people. I’m uncomfortable in most social situations.
Anyway, I ask Mary “what happened?” and she tells me that her brother died 😦
And I know, that’s my cue to comfort her and maybe hug her or something. Instead, I just say “oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.” and sort of awkwardly put my hand on her shoulder. Then she takes off her vacuum and goes into the nearest classroom to sit down. In my head I’m thinking “oh crap, I’m stuck with this grieving woman, I have a ton of copies to make, how long is this going to take.” but I know I can’t leave her so I go in and sit down next to her.
She starts talking, telling me what happened to him. He had a heart attack, it was sudden, he was on medication for his cholesterol. I get Mary some tissues and she starts talking about how she can’t remember the last thing she said to him. She said they didn’t talk that much. There was a lot she wanted to say.
And here’s how awful of a person I am. I encourage her to go home and tell her “people will understand, you should go home.” But she tells me she can’t leave because she’s closing the building tonight. At that point I’m worried that I’m going to have to comfort her all night, but surprisingly she gets up and tells me that she should get back to work and thanks me for talking to her!
I did eventually finish my work, but how awful am I that I didn’t sincerely care that Mary’s brother had died???