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Mr. C and me

“Would you like something to drink?” he asked me kindly. I knew this question was coming. I had forgotten to look up the drink options at Books-a-Million and knew I should have the moment I found out my interview was going to be there. The line-up of questions an over-thinker asks themselves in stressful situations immediately began scrolling through my mind.

What kind of beverage do you order at a coffee shop when you don’t really drink coffee?

What will a potential boss think if I don’t drink coffee?

What kind of 21-year-old gets through college without a sip of coffee?

I replied honestly, “I’m actually good, thank you.”

He seemed surprised, but walked forward to show me to his table. I was surprised to see a half-full bright white frappe on the table. He said, “I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I knew most people your age were, so I thought this might be a good place to meet.”

My stomach dropped. How absolutely thoughtful.

“Yeah, most people are. I’ve never really been much of a coffee drinker myself,” I awkwardly giggled out. A vanilla cream frappe sounded amazing, actually.

He introduced himself as David Crouch. I had been out of my teen years for 18 months, and I didn’t really know what to call him. I called him David, but everything about him — the way he dressed, the way he talked, his kindness, his smile — made me feel like what I called him deserved more than that. He was quite a bit older than me, humbly intelligent, and intentional with every word he spoke.

I never really liked school. I tried hard but then got to college and didn’t really apply myself much until I got into my major classes because that actually felt like having a job. My worst class was biology. I was a senior in biology about to graduate with a goal of not failing the class. And I didn’t. I didn’t care about general education classes at all — information that was no secret after one quick glance at my transcript. But who really looks at those things anyway?

He reached into his leather folder and pulled out a few pieces of paper. “I have your transcript here, and when I was looking at it, I noticed you got a D in biology. What happened there?”

I couldn’t say that I was just an irresponsible college freshman at the time; this grade was finalized a short few months ago. I couldn’t say I took the class while I was abroad and interested in other things; it was during an easy, low-key last semester of my senior year. I couldn’t blame the instructor; he had mentioned that they were friends!

Since I’m a genius, I replied, “I suck at science.”

“I SUCK AT SCIENCE?! DO YOU EVEN WANT A JOB?” I immediately scolded myself.

He told me he was a biology major in college. Quietly in my head, I congratulated the person who would actually be getting this job. A few moments later, he chuckled and said he was just giving me a hard time. I didn’t even try to hide a shred of the relief I felt. I swear he enjoyed it.

As the end of the interview approached, David… still feels weird… began describing next steps and timing.

“I want to be honest with you. You’re the least qualified and experienced candidate I’ve talked to.”

I had gone to one job interview before this one ever as a recent college graduate. His honesty startled me, but it took me a total of .0284 seconds to appreciate his openness.

“Thank you for sharing that with me,” I said. When I got home — to my parents’ home that I was living in — I told them not to get their hopes up.

When I showed up for work on my first day, he showed me to my office, told me how to log into my computer, and said he needed a news release about an event that was happening next week ready to fax to Little Rock media by noon. After googling how to do everything I just typed, I got to work. I showed up that day with no idea why he took a chance on this fresh college grad who sucked at science, but he changed my life and taught me more about communications than anyone ever has.

His humility was inspiring. His love for his family was precious. His intentionality of asking me about my life and family made me feel at home in our office. When he retired, I missed getting to just sit around and talk to him. I loved catching up with him when I could, and that often happened through phone calls over the last couple of years. He passed away this week, and I will miss him a lot. He was a great man, and I know he will be missed by so many people.

When you start a new job, you slowly catch on to office culture and learn how to do and say things the way everyone else does. Later in the day on my first day of work, I quickly noticed that people in our office were calling him Mr. Crouch or Mr. C.

Mr. C.

That felt right.

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