When Studs Terkel, described by Donna Seaman as “oral historian, writer of conscience and raconteur-on-a-mission,” died on Halloween in 2008, he left a tall stack of books behind him. None affected me more than one called Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. The book led me to think not only about all the jobs I have worked in my life but also about all the people whose jobs make life in my small town work.
The day I moved to Clarkesville, I walked from the church to the post office, where I came up a quarter short on a book of stamps. “Don’t worry,” the pretty blond clerk behind the counter said. “Just bring it back before we close at five.” Her nametag said “Elaine.” When I brought the quarter back, I told her my name but she already knew it. Eighteen years later, I have learned to stand patiently in line as Elaine greets her customers by name.