A first time for everything, even after 49 years

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2005

I want to tell you of my first time.

It was with Nikki.

I will always remember her name, well, her first name at least, I never got her last name.

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Many of you readers remember your first time, that is, for those of you that have had a first time.

I wonder if your experience was similar to mine?

I hadn’t really planned on it happening when it did, it just sort of happened.

It actually caught me off guard.

I don’t know what I was expecting the first time to be like.

I guess I had not really given it much thought.

In all honesty, it was not really a pleasant experience.

The day had been a spectacular spring day, but nothing in its prior events had prepared me for what was about to happen.

The sun had gone down but it was still early evening and far from dark.

I could see the young lady from quite a distance away, and as I slowly approached, she casually looked up and greeted me with a quick smile that revealed a perfect, glistening white symmetry.

I finally found myself standing directly in front of her and I noticed that her charcoal black eyes sparkled and were such that one could get lost staring into them.

Everything about her seemed to exude fun and perkiness.

She was the first to speak.

In a voice that was as inviting as a cool, swimming hole on an August day, she suggestively asked, “What can I do for you?”

I kept my composure and simply replied “I’d like two movie tickets to see ‘Fever Pitch,’ please.”

It was at this moment that it happened to me for the first time.

This young, coquettish female, standing behind the ticket booth’s glass enclosure, with her brilliant smile and dazzling eyes, replied, “Will that be two ‘senior’ tickets, sir?”

Never in my forty nine years had anyone ever asked me if I wanted a ‘senior discount.’

This was the first time.

Time sort of stood still.

My mind suddenly raced to long-ago visited backwoods in Mississippi, where I could recall my

Grandpa Shows, an old man sitting on a front porch.

Did I look like this man to this young lady?

Did I really look like I qualified for a senior discount?

How much time elapsed, I am not sure, but I know that the line behind me started getting a little impatient as I stood there speechless.

I am sure that Nikki, identifiable by the name tag that she was wearing, remained oblivious to the magnitude of the moment.

It was time for me to respond.

What was I to say?

In as steady a voice as I could command under the present situation, I politely smiled back at Nikki and said “give me a senior ticket for my wife and I’ll take a regular one.”

Nikki was also oblivious to the resulting kick to my shin from my darling wife.

I walked (actually limped) into the theater foyer and, still in a daze, found my way to the refreshment counter.

Shalithia stood there ready to take my order.

After asking for a popcorn and diet Coke, I waited for her to ask me if I wanted the ‘senior’ special.

She never asked.

I was confused.

Should I ask for it?

It would save me a dollar-fifty.

Now readers, I have shared these intimate moments with you for a purpose.

I have done so because everyday business owners have trained individuals to be their company’s front- line representatives.

These individuals are often responsible for what type of experience a customer will have with a company.

A lot of companies have had a reputation for putting out a good product, but also for having poor customer service.

A good product is often not enough to be successful as a business.

Constantly reviewing how front-line employees perform is an ongoing challenge for small and big businesses.

It is worth the effort, however.

In the meantime, readers, if you see an old man leaving the Chamber office and trying to cross Walnut and Washington on his way to the post office, please stop and offer to assist him across the street.

Jay Shows is President of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce.