What are customers? They are people who are accustomed to doing business with us. Occasional shoppers are not customers. They are browsers. They are buyers, at best. Customers are the people we see in season and maybe out of season, week after week, year after year. They are wonderful. They are loyal. Given time, they may become dear friends.
Let me introduce you to some of my customers.
Mr. Charlie H.
Mr. Charlie H. declares he was born February 33rd, the same year as my father. (His eye twinkles when he mentions Feb. 33rd because he thinks nobody gets the joke. Some probably don't. We know the exact year, but I won't post it here because we think the government knows too much already.) Mr. Charlie is generous to a fault. It seems he's always picking grapes to give to other people, usually to former co-employees at a nearby big-box store. Tonight, again, we got to talking about life. He told me more about his younger years and his older years.
He told me about some of his grandchildren. He doesn't trust most of them entirely. He said, "They come around. One just got out of prison. I feed them with a long-handled spoon." He became suspicious that his "grans" were driving around in his car and smoking drugs when some officers with dogs were sniffing around and alerted to his old Buick. "The most I ever stole was some sugar cane", and his father gave him a whippin' for that.
We talked about that for awhile, and how youthful foolishness would lead young men to steal, shoplift, then feel badly enough about it to repent. I mentioned St. Augustine's deep guilt for stealing pears for no good reason except for the fun of it. Mr. Charlie said he used to drive a lumber to truck to St. Augustine, FL, and knew what I was talking about, so our stories resonated.
Mr. Charlie said he figured out how to know if his grans have been messing around with his Buick. He scratches the ground before and behind the tires with a screwdriver before he goes to bed at night. There's no way they can put it back just like it was.
This afternoon, Mrs. G. backed up to our porch swing, heaved herself up and settled in, puffing about how hot it was today. Mrs. G. and her family have picked grapes in my vineyard for as long as I can remember. Nowadays she comes alone. She doesn't look too old, but she says her health is declining. We talked about her children and mine. She mentioned her divorce, which occurred several years ago. I said her ex came to pick grapes a few days ago. He's still pastoring a black congregation nearby.
Somehow we got on the subject of correcting children. She said she never got a whippin' before she was married. Her daddy would look at her with hard eyes, but speak softly.
Speaking of her ex, she said she's still upset that Rev. G. recently gave what she thought to be bad advice to their daughter about charity. He allegedly told the daughter she should have at least twice as much in the bank as she intends to loan or give to others. "That's just wrong", she said, implying that he was stingy.
"He has a beautiful wife now. She's beautiful...and quiet. Very quiet. I wasn't quiet."
Then she began to compliment me on my snowy white hair