The Genuine Optician
by V. Orlikowski
It was sometime in the 1980s, in the southern United States, inside a huge retail store. My job was to sell appliances, which were located in front of the optical shop. A large optical chain owned this store inside a store.
There was something unusual about the man who ran the shop. He greeted everyone with a true smile, sometimes hugged his customers, and some old ladies received a hug and a kiss on hands. Men thought he was a flirting man.
He was irritating because he was different. First, he was foreign and projected an image of a self confident, happy man. It seemed nothing could subdue him. For us, the southerners, this was hard to understand. How could this young man in his thirties, foreign, clearly speaking with a foreign accent, be so free of fear?
At times he clearly violated his company’s policies or the host store’s policies. People wondered what it was that made him not enslaved to the ridiculous and often heartless policies of the top managers somewhere in distant northern cities?
One day an old black man walked through the entrance of the optical store. The man was clearly poor, with broken black frames in his hand. Moving slowly, unsure of himself, he walked into the middle of the shop, he stopped a few steps in front of the optical manager’s desk.
The manager was sitting buried in some paperwork.
It was only a moment, then he saw this old black man. The young man raised immediately and approached the old man. He warmly shook hands with the old man and sat him down. Broken glasses were laid on the table.
Interested in what would happen, I put up a sign “Be back in 10” and walked into the optical shop. Truth be told, the management had told me to spy on the young man, and I did report from time to time on some of his unusual behaviors.
The optician took the broken glasses in his hands and said the glasses could not be repaired. The old man asked how much new glasses like these would cost, the answer was $89. The face of the old man saddened.
Seeing this, the optician took the glasses went into the back room, checked the power of the lenses and came back with a smile. “I have a solution, go to the local drug store, and buy two exactly like these, one with this power and another with this power and come back. I will make you two pairs just like these”.
The old man asked, “How much will this be?”
The optician said “Nothing”.
The fact that the optician did not sell new glasses to this man was clearly a violation of all sales policies, with serious consequences. It was never reported.
Ever since that time I have become a different man.