I live in Northwest Denver in a neighborhood called The Highlands. We have lived here for nearly 15 years. Here’s one reason why we stay.
This evening, Sujata got home from work around 6 and she and Lu went downstairs to watch The Lord of the Rings. I had been home all day with the kids, so I took the opportunity to get out of the house and go for a swim. On my way home from the pool I thought I’d stop at our local grocery store, Sprouts, to pick up some things for the rest of the weekend. Sprouts is a notoriously lousy grocery store, but, it’s our notoriously lousy grocery store, and I think, as I’ll relate in a moment, people in The Highlands, but up with it because of the convenience as well as the fact that we are a generally go0d-natured and easy going lot. That said, if you ever go there, be on the look out. It’s not unusual for a produce guy to come sailing around a corner or busting out of the freezer in the back, pushing a cart full of avocados or apples like he’s running from the devil himself. I always make sure the kids are close by when we are in the produce section because the guys with the cart can’t see that low and the last thing I want is to see my kid under a heap of carrots and eggplant.
So, back to this evening. I fill up my hand basket with some bread, produce and tofu and make my way to the cashier line where (why was I surprised?) I encounter lines that go back through the candy section of the store. I’m kind of annoyed, but I’m not really in a huge hurry and I’ve just swam so I’m feeling relaxed. There’s a twenty-something woman in front of me and after standing there for about five minutes, we both notice that the cashier is really taking his time. As in, he picks up a can of soup, looks it over, tells the poor guy who’s buying the soup that this is really good soup and did you know that there’s a pot of soup in Japan that’s been simmering for over a thousand years? Of course there’s not one to bag the guy’s soup so either he does it himself (most people do at Sprouts) or, god help us, we have to wait for the cashier. We’re standing there so long that we actually have time to look at the cashier’s name tag: it’s Kurt. He’s a super nice dude. Kind of like a Jeff Lebowski figure. Late middle age, man bun, looks a little burned out, but happy and relaxed, man, happy and relaxed. The woman in front of me gets to the point where she can actually start putting her groceries on the stand. I say to her, “Thanks for smiling and making me smile because if you would have been annoyed, I probably would have gotten annoyed, too.” She smiles easily and says, “No problem.” I’m extra sensitive about this, I think, because on Thursday I went to the first round of the NCAA tournament in Denver, at the Pepsi Center and we sat behind some Seton Hall fans WHO WERE TOTAL JERKS and did not know how to behave in public. I won’t go into details except to say they were really stupid and vulgar (I can take one or the other, not both) and that just got me to thinking about how nice people are in Denver, by and large.
I have to say, though, that The Highlands is unique in that regard. That is, there are some neighborhoods that are really not cool. Oh, one time at a party there were some people from Cherry Hills there–that’s where John Elway lives–get it? They told me they were from there and I could tell they did’t have a sense of humor and just to mess with them I said, “Oh, Cherry Hills? Where’s that?” Sujata almost died laughing when I told her that.
Back to the line at Sprouts. So the nice twenty-something ahead of me gets even with the cashier and he says, “Do you do yoga?” She says, “Well, yes, I do, why?” To which he replies, “Well, you know when you get impatient it’s always good to practice pranayana breathing.” At this, I have to look away because I am laughing so hard. I make eye contact with the woman and she has the biggest smile ever. I’m thinking at this point, “Is this a test? Is this guy like some kind of messenger from the gods?” And because it’s northwest Denver, both me and the twenty something actually do know something about pranayana breathing, which makes it even more lovely. She says, “You know, I do and I think the nice gentleman behind me wants to get home to his family.” We say goodbye and then it’s my turn. By this time, the couple behind me, a 60-something couple who are chatting and laughing quietly to themselves the whole time, look at me and the woman says, “Well, I don’t need to watch Saturday Night Live tonight because I just saw the best skit they could do.” I’m back to laughing my ass off and then they tell me they are from Evergreen, a town up in the foothills about 30 minutes away. I say, “Oh, you must come down to Denver on Saturday nights to do your shopping because it’s so much quicker down here.” They can’t stop laughing and then we all agree that the very least Sprouts could do would be to serve us drinks as we are graciously waiting in their long lines. As I’m bagging my groceries, they sidle up to cashier, who promptly begins to elucidate an obscure point about medieval history. I can’t take it anymore. I put the last loaf of bread in my bag, smile at the couple who say, “It was nice to talk with you. I’m Jan and this is Bob.”
Thank you twenty-something young woman. Thank you, Jan and Bob. Thank you, Kurt!
What a great neighborhood!