He jangled his way through life; a crammed key ring at his side. You could always hear him coming before his stubby, slightly chubby frame came into view: jangle, clink, jingle clunk. He was already grey when I met him on the first day of high school. I was standing alone at my assigned locker struggling with the key.
Our family had just moved half-way across the country. I didn’t know a single soul. As a girl of thirteen, already on the precipice of self-loathing and insecurity, the move was particularly hard. My two younger brothers already had chums and left the house excited for the new adventures awaiting them. I walked to school as if it were a death march.
I was frantically trying to open the stubborn lock when I heard him; jangle, clink, jingle, clunk. Looking up I encountered kind brown eyes.
“Are you having trouble, Miss?” He was dressed in what I would come to recognize as his uniform; dark blue work shirt, matching trousers, an official school name tag identifying him as Mr. Bodecker, black shoes bulky enough to encase a steel toe, a small utility belt, and the largest packed key ring I ever saw.
“Uh...um...” Before I could manage a complete sentence Mr. Bodecker pulled out a small bottle of WD40, sprayed the lock, turned the key, and opened the stubborn locker.
“Rust is always a problem here on the west coast. Moisture never quite leaves the air. Not even in summer.” He replaced the magic formula into some obscure pocket then said, “You’re not from around here are you?”
Looking down I whispered, “Is it that obvious?”
His chuckle made me look up. No mockery was present in the laughter.
“Now, I’m not saying I’m some sort of fashion expert but I do spend my days among teens. I haven’t seen a pair of Levis for about a decade.”
In Montana everyone wore Levis to school. I tried to tell my mom I needed a new pair of jeans but things were tight after the move.
I dropped my head and sighed heavier than I meant.
“Now, now, Miss Waters, no need to panic.”
“How do you know my name?” My eyes snapped up looking steadily into his. Mom calls it my ‘killer look’.
“I have all the locker assignments. Part of the job.” He patted his top left pocket.
“I’ll be the laughing stock of the whole school.” I’m not sure why I felt I could confide in this older gentleman but maybe the key was the fact that he was a gentle man.
“I’ll tell you a secret,” he whispered leaning in close. The kindness in his eyes gave me courage to lean in as well. “Every freshman, girl or boy, is wondering if the way they’re dressed is cool or not. The only thing truly necessary is confidence.”
I stood up and looked around to see if any other students seemed scared. To my surprise most did.
Turning back to Mr. Bodecker I asked, “Confidence?”
“Yeah, confidence. Shoulders back, head up, eyes steady...I think you have that one in the bag already...” He chuckled again. As he did most of the apprehension surrounding me dissipated like the rust from the lock.
I reached into the open locker, retrieving the Mathematics text and thanked Mr. Bodecker for his help.
“Now Miss Waters everyone calls me Mr. Bo. Just Mr. Bo.” After placing a gentle hand on my shoulder he left me in search of the next nervous freshman.
Mr. Bo jangled throughout high school. He opened locked doors when I arrived early for drama rehearsal or stayed late for extra science labs. The comforting sound of jangle, clink, jingle, clunk echoed through the halls like a favorite song wafting over radio waves. But when he passed on to me nuggets of wisdom, at just the right time, they acted like one of the keys jingling on his jammed ring. Each piece of advice unlocked me from turbulent teenage angst and freed me to see my world from a greater perspective.
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