One of our "regulars" is an older alum that feels compelled to tell us (loudly) what's going on in his life--everything from bed bugs in his apartment to his bank putting fraudulent charges on his account.
He mainly comes in to use our computers, looking at street level views of google maps, sometimes hours on end.
I've seen him searching through the trash, he mutters to himself, wears the same overcoat everyday, and is always dragging carry-on luggage behind him.
Whenever he'd come up to the front desk, I'd be polite but engage as little as possible, not wanting to get caught up in one of his drawn-out stories (he tends to latch onto you otherwise).
He's more of a nuisance than anything. At times I'd mimic his thick city accent and repeat his stories to my coworkers. Making light of the situation--and the frustrations of dealing with him, but at his expense.
Shame on me. Growing up in school, I was made fun of and harassed just for being who I was. And now I'm essentially doing the same thing.
He came up to the front desk the other day before leaving to wish me a good night (as usual).
Out-of-nowhere he added, "An hour from now, fourteen years ago, my mother had passed."
"I'm sorry to hear that," I said.
"Well, that was a a long time ago," he replied, brushing it off. But there were imperceptible tears in his eyes. "It still gets me even now."
In that moment it hit me that for all his oddities he's still very much a human.
I smiled and wished him a good night as I always do. "Take care," I said.
Forgive me, Mr. Gordon. From now on I will try looking at you in a new light.