Writing 101 – Day Six – A Character-Building Experience

My friend – i’ll call her Kate – wasn’t always my friend. In fact, the first time I met Kate I was accepting her resume for a position available at my workplace, and I remember thinking, “Oh God, please, don’t let them hire her, I swear if they hire her, I will have to kill her.” So of course she was hired.

Kate is short of stature, and tending towards Rubenesque. She isn’t afraid to wear clothes that accentuate her assets, and she’s the first to point out her own flaws, sometimes taking self-deprecation to a higher level. She has black hair that is shot through with dandruff from excema – a fact i think must drive her crazy given her previous life as a hairdresser. She is quite pale of complexion, and acne spatters her cheeks and forehead. She does a great smokey eye makeup that I will always be envious of, and she reminds me sometimes of Elizabeth Taylor circa National Velvet…with a nose ring. She will often come to work dressed in a flamenco-style skirt and calf-high boots that always make her seem far taller than she really is – even when she’s sitting down.

I have seen some people described as ‘bubbly’, but i’ve often found that used as a euphemism for ‘bimbo’. Kate is definitely one of the bubbliest, non-bimbo types I’ve ever met. She is genuine and positive and a caring soul. When you talk – she listens with her whole body leaning in, absorbing what you’re saying. I’ve always found blue eyes to be cold, but when Kate is listening or empathizing, they are warm and compassionate. However, when she is riled or defending someone, they are capable of ice as well. I’ve sat beside her for an entire work shift and never seen the level of optimism and energy fade – each person gets the same friendly, familiar greeting as the one who comes in a minute before the shift is done. Her standard greeting is a Cockney ‘Allo, ‘allo, ‘allo!” even though she’s born and bred in Canada.

She is so fabulous in a customer service position, because she actually cares about the people who come in every day, and will do everything she can to make sure that the patron is satisfied. I am not an outgoing type of person, and it took me a fair few months before I could comfortably be on the same shift as Kate. Once I told myself to give her a chance, and engaged her in conversation, it felt like she understood that I took time to warm up to people, and that I wasn’t as exuberant as she was. She kept a safe distance, but after a few more shifts, and calling on our common bond of motherhood, I understood her appeal, and what it was like to be this woman’s friend. It’s like this great big warm, magnetic light that calls to that part of you from grade school, that needs to be liked and appreciated, and draws you into her sphere of influence. It’s great to be around someone like that, who can make you feel like you’re the most amazing person on the planet, and while she may say that she is so lucky to work in the place that she does…really we’re very lucky to have her.

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