Sitting in a restaurant recently I did a double take as a waitress passed by.  That was because she was carrying five large heaping and hot main dishes to a table nearby.  Four of the dishes ran up her left arm, almost to her shoulder; the fifth rested in her right hand.  Without even considering how she loaded them in the first place, I watched in awe at what she was able to do, not once but several times during the course of the evening.

This led me to thinking about how otherwise ordinary people often possess specific but notably exceptional skills.  I’m not referring to professionals who can dissect a balance sheet or sway a jury or install a new automobile engine.  I’m talking about regular people who either have a natural ability or an acquired capacity to do something that most of us may be able to do, but not especially well.

How frustrating it is when you’re unable to find particular items in a vast supermarket.  That’s usually not a problem for store employees who seem to have committed the entire stock to memory.  Ask them to locate a particular product and, in an instant, they’re directing you to the aisle number and shelf level.  I’m often reluctant to undo a shirt in a clothing store in order to check its fit.  That’s because I feel guilty imagining how complicated it must be folding it up properly and returning it to the shelf.  When I attempt to do it the result is decidedly comical.  Then I observe how an employee takes a few opened garments and folds so precisely you’d never guess they had been opened.  Same is true with in-store gift wrapping.  At home I will cut  up paper and with scotch tape wrap a box, but rarely is it a finished product.  The corners are not tight, the flaps uneven and where the sections converge, it’s never entirely straight, plus the ribbon looks limp.  Ask for gift wrapping at a store and you come away with an object of beauty, often more attractive than the gift itself.

What man can’t change a tire?  Who knows, but even if most can, few feel comfortable doing it.  Loosening the lug nuts (especially if they’ve never been removed) is a challenge.  Positioning the jack and raising the car involves considerable finesse.  Removing the flat tire and fitting on the new one takes a steady hand while tightening the nuts and securing the tire requires some exertion.  It’s doable, but does take time and considerable effort.  Besides, you’ll come away sweating and dirty and not sure you’ve done it right.  So maybe next time you call someone to do it.  He arrives and in no time his jack lifts the car and he quickly removes the flat and secures the new tire.  What might have taken you ten to fifteen minutes he completes in two or three.  There are the valet parkers; the guys who drive any vehicle model in reverse then speed into a tight spot in the blink of an eye.  You’d never attempt anything like that.

What about those who deliver newspapers onto the front step or porch of our homes.  They’ve got the touch, launching papers from near the curb right onto the porch or landing.  Precision targeting at its best.  Same with vendors at the ballpark who from many rows away, over the heads of spectators, can toss a hot dog into your waiting hands.

Let’s also include guys who are “handy”, especially around the house.  There’s not much they won’t attempt.  And they have the patience and smarts to figure things out.  If a faucet leaks, they’re on it.  If something breaks, they’ll try piecing it back together.  They’re prepared to tighten anything that’s loose, hang anything that needs hanging and paint a section of the ceiling marred by water damage.  Let’s not overlook “handy” women with seamstress-like skills, those with a talent for making beds up to hotel standards, fold laundry expertly and improvise meals from a little bit of this or that.

Common folks have been having a rough time of it lately.  So at least let’s not forget that most have something they can do exceptionally well.

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