“Hey Little Lady, What’cha Doing Down There?” – Open Heart Story
Story By Penny Rea
The sun shines through my window letting me know it’s already morning. I jump up thinking I must have overslept, what happened to the alarm clock? My eyes flash to the stupid clock and it’s only 6 A.M. Good, I have so much to do today.
I work at the Luxor as an usher for the Blue Man Group and left work at midnight last night. I drove home – Checked on my three-year-old son – Asthma again – Next give him a breathing treatment — Waited for it to take affect — Made sure he was resting comfortably – Hit the sheets – It’s 2 A.M.
And so another day begins on four hours sleep. My husband’s off to work, I prepare Alex’s preschool bag and wake him, breakfast and medication, off to school, asthma gets worse, back home, another treatment. Next, clean up dishes from last night’s dinner, prepare crockpot dinner for tonight, do laundry and cleaning, pay bills and spend time with Alex making sure he is getting his medication on schedule.
My husband is going to be late again so I call our baby sitter. I don’t want to work tonight with Alex being sick. My husband doesn’t watch him as closely as I do. I always worry. The sitter is late too, so I fly out the door with just enough time to make it to work. Great — an accident on the off-ramp. Nothing’s moving. Finally get around it to see that no one was injured, thank God for that.
I park and run through for the casino. I’m wearing the assigned Usher’s uniform: Horrible black pants and a black long sleeved t-shirt. It’s 110 degrees; I believe one of these days I going to spontaneously combust. Not to mention I am completely exhausted, and am racing for the time clock. I’m one damn minute late — One Damn Minute!
I’ll be written up because this makes the third time I’ve been late in the five plus years I’ve worked here. Three seems to be the magic number no matter how long you’ve been an employee. The twelve Customer Service Awards I’ve received don’t seem to count for much – just that damn time clock! I’m always racing against time!
Sure enough, my boss Jerry calls me into his office and the conversation goes something like this: “Do you have any reason for being late?”
I quickly reply, “Yes, my baby sitter was late and there was an accident on the off-ramp.”
“Well, you know you could lose your job over this.”
I shot back, “If I do, maybe it would be a blessing in disguise.”
“What do you mean by that?” he asked sharply.
“I’m always so freaking stressed out trying to get here, and making sure everything is Okay at home with my son sick. I really don’t care any more.” I was fighting back the tears. I was exhausted and didn’t want to be at work and now this!
Jerry’s tone changed, “I feel bad for you, and I don’t believe you will lose your job. But you will have to go in front of the board to explain what’s going on.”
I leave his office and am met by the other Usher’s, all wanting to know what happened. Jerry steps out and tells them it’s none of their business, we have guests to seat and we’re going to have a great night.
Great night – right. I felt the time ticking away and all the people that mattered were at home. I was missing out on life in this God forsaken place. I went to my position inside the theater near the south ramp closest to the Ladies Room. The guests entered, I just looked at the ticket, said right this way, and escorted them to their assigned seat. They would say thank you, and I would reply, you’re welcome. I never even looked up at their faces or greeted them as I always did. There was no joy or enthusiasm tonight. It was just a job.
I’m handed another ticket but the man’s massive hands won’t let go of it so I can read the seat assignment. I try to take it and finally he lets go. Because I was still looking down, I follow from his brown leather Italian made shoes to his hand woven linen pants, the color of warm sandy beaches, and his white Catalina Island style shirt to his shinny caramel skin. He was a mountain of a man, over six feet-five inches tall.
“Hey little lady, what’cha doing down there?” his deep baritone words were gently spoken with a smile.
“Oh, my gosh — I know you!” surprised by his presence.
“You do!” he said, smiling brightly.
I replied, “Yes, I’m terrible with names but you were in The Green Mile, right?”
And of course he said, “Yes”.
“I bet you get asked for autographs all the time.”
“Not really, I usually get asked for hugs.”
“I’m sure you do — you know I can get you a better seat.
“Please don’t treat me any different than anyone else, I’ll sit in the seat they gave me.”
“Are you sure?” What a humble man I thought to myself.
He was so kind. I had to let him know how I felt. “You really brightened my day. It’s like you really saw me, not just a lady seating people, but me!”
With another bright smile, he replied, “I do and you’re special.”
“Thank you, you’re special too. You have a really great night.”
“You too. You know God put us here for two reasons.”
I asked, “What are they?”
“To go on our journey, and to have a good time while we’re doing it. Don’t forget to smile on your journey!” We exchanged another smile and I went back to the door to seat the next guest.
I never saw Michael Clarke Duncan again, no autograph or hug for that matter, but he touched me very deeply. I felt as if I knew him from a past life perhaps, an old friend, one time can’t erase. I will always remember how important he made me feel, and his thoughtful words. The impression he left changed the course of my night, and my life due to his gentle kindness. He will be forever missed in this world! Still I take comfort in the belief that my dear friend will be there to greet me in Heaven one day. Smiling once again!
Publishing Editor’s Note: Michael Clarke Duncan was born on December 10, 1957 and crossed over to Heaven on September 3, 2012. Perhaps most famously known for “The Green Mile” in which he played John Coffey. John was a wonderfully simple and uncomplicated character with the amazing gift to heal, and a heart so gentle that he felt other people’s pain. Michael’s love and compassion mirrored John Coffey’s. I know you will enjoy Penny Rea’s unforgettable meeting. It took place in 2003 and now, ten years later she is able to pay tribute to this amazing man. The accompanying photo is an oil painting created by Penny, titled “Heaven’s Light”. Please, take a moment to read about this talented lady on our Contributor’s Bio Page. She can contacted through our comment section following this story or via email at: email@example.com