It was Thursday November 22, Thanksgiving Day in America. On the opposite side of the world is Thailand, where they were celebrating the Loy Krathong Festival. In America and Thailand it was a full moon night. I got a feeling that some crazy things will happen in NOLA and in my life.
When I left the house for my job in the French Quarter, I promised my husband that I will come home safely. I will work hard and do my best. I will be strong, be nice, be kind, do my best for my job.
I always work hard as my family taught me. I’m a direct person and I will handle situations professionally. Bad or good happens in my experience, but I remind myself that I’m on the clock and I present the company.
I make sure that customers walk out with good impressions + happiness and this will bring customers back to our store again. If I make any mistakes, I apologize immediately and do my best to take care of the situation. If it is out of my control, I will call my boss for help. Every mistake can happen but you have to treat people with respect and professionally.
Many days I work nonstop and never get a chance to sit down. I work hard and don’t get to eat my lunch. I only eat snacks and fruit to build up my power. I work like it is the last day that I will be alive. I have learned that so many things can happen. (Positive or negative.)
Here comes the full moon night. Even though it was a rough night, I still smiled and did my best. Many customers asked me if I’m the owner of the store. I told them “I am just a worker only, who tries to work hard and do my best. I’m not an owner, sir/ma’am.”
How bad my day and night was going, but the one thing that makes me so happy and feel so strong is when I get support from family and company. Besides, a little compliment from a customer means a lot because it encourages me to work harder, make good sales, and be happy.
I receive many compliments about the store and my native Thailand. Every time when the customer asked where I come from, I proudly tell them Thailand. The customers are so happy to talk to me. They tell me about their experiences in Thailand: food, nice people, beautiful temples, lovely beaches, a peaceful country.
Many beautiful stories are shared with customers and I still made good sales because I told them the secrets of how to cook Thai-fusion food with some good spices that we have in our store.
Often I think that I talk too much. But I can’t ignore the customers’ questions because I always feel that I have to help them because it is part of my job that I have to help the customer.
Many customers walked in with questions and walked out with a great experience. How hard I work, how much time I put in for the job. I don’t get trophies or rewards, but the good thing is that I earn the best experience in my life.
I know that working in the French Quarter can be dangerous. Good or bad will happen and this is life. You can’t get away from your destiny. What ever’s going to happen, It will happen. I told myself to be strong with any situation.
Later that evening, a homeless man stood on the walkway inside the store quietly. I am the first person who must deal directly with everyone who enters the store.
I knew that something was wrong and I was afraid that he might attack the customers. I walked to him and asked politely if he needed help. Even though he is homeless but I still talked to him with respect.
Some homeless are very nice and polite but some are very aggressive and angry at the world. With my Buddhist background I learned to understand peoples’ lives. I don’t judge people by their appearance, but I will learn from them and their actions. If you do something wrong, I might dislike you and tell you directly but I don’t hate you.
I’m not an aggressive person but I will defend myself if someone tries to hurt me. I think before I act. I respect the law and company policies. If someone hurts me, I’d rather his family cry than my family.
I never let the customer see my tears. I never let anyone break me. I might cry silently but only good friends will see my weakness. I speak when I need to. I control myself and don’t let the little monster come out. But the little monster will come out when I feel so much pain and can’t take anymore.
Every night when I go home, I keep asking myself what am I doing here. I know my answer is because I love my job and I love the story of NOLA-NOLIE. If I don’t put my life in the French Quarter, I’d never learn the truth about life in NOLA.
I am thankful for my experiences and what I learn each day. Thankful for my family, friends, co-workers, good bosses who always support me.
I survived Thanksgiving and the first day of the Bayou Classic Festival 2018. I am still alive and will be as I am.
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty starts playing and it makes me happy.
Natthinee Khot-asa Jones
November 24, 2018
Dog Food and Homeless Men
It was a busy Thursday night in the middle of October, and it was my FRIDAY! Many tourists from around the world visited the French Quarter and passed by our store. Each day I meet different people and sometimes I get to see them again before they head home.
Buying local hot sauces and spices to bring back home are great gifts for their families. In our store we sale hot sauces, spices, pralines, and many varieties of merchandise.
Royal Street is nice because has an upper scale hotel like Hotel Monteleone on the second block, and inside the hotel is a famous bar: the Carousel Bar and Lounge. There are many restaurants, galleries, stores, unique stores, gift shops, praline stores, and a New Orleans Police station on this street.
Chase bank is located on the corner next to the Hotel Monteleone and these businesses are opposite with our store. Each street will have a few homeless who beg for money or everything. They will have their own sign with their writing. You read and believe in your own eyes. There are many reasons to beg. Some for food and some for cash only. Many of them stay begging in the same area long enough to make their own territory. Some join their new beggar friends or gutter punks and move around.
The French Quarter has many beggars because New Orleans Parish doesn’t require you to have a license to beg like Jefferson Parish. Of course the homeless and beggars love our parish. Some of us who work around the French Quarter are kind and give some food to the beggars. We just feel bad and share our kindness but we never give them cash. They often get cash from tourists.
When our store is busy, we will do our best to help the customers and make sells. Our first priority is to make sure the customer has a good experience in our store and come back to see us. I am lucky because my friend is trilingual, I speak five languages. Together we speak eight languages. It is easy for us to deal with the customers who come from other countries.
Dealing with customers from different backgrounds is not about trying to make a sale, but it is about being friendly and making them feel comfortable to talk to you. Some of them speak a little English and we can’t understand their language at all. A lot of them use google translator for help. You read what they wrote in their language translated into English. When you get what they need, they are so happy. Some of them who come from the country that you speak their language become your friend.
Therefore, I learned how that experience brought me a new friend and the friendship comes from their heart.
Every night my friend and I working on our routine to clean up the hot sauce bar before closing the store. I am a cashier since the morning shift until night shift. My main job is to deal directly with the customers when they enter and check out to leave our store.
However, I have to work and help out on the hot sauce bar and everything else in the store, and we have to have good team work. Luckily I have a good friend to work with and she knows how to run the register. This helps me out a lot. Every evening shift I can go use the restroom without worrying. We work hard and take a turn to watch each others’ back.
Working more than fourteen hours per day is my option, and I like it. I prefer to work only three or four days per week and be off on Thursday or Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That’s better than working only the morning shift for five to six days per week.
While the store is slow, I always find something to do. I often climb up and down the ladder to fill up the hot sauces and spices. My favorite thing to do is to fold and roll t-shirts because it is meditative and keeps me calm.
Later I told my friend to watch the register because I had to sweep the floor in the back of the store.
“Go ahead. I will watch the front,” my friend answered.
The zydeco song finished playing and the last cd commenced. It was my favorite song “None of us are free” by Solomon Burke, the old American Blues singer. I fell in love with this song because it gives me power and I feel happy when I hear this song.
I took my time and swept the floor and enjoyed the music. My eyes stayed on customers to see if they need help. My friend went out to smoke and stood in front the store and kept her eyes on the register.
Later I heard someone talking loudly in front of the store and my friend checked it out. I quickly carried the broom with me and made my way to the front. It was an old homeless man yelling at my friend.
“Fuck all this shit. She can’t steal from the dog. That’s a bad woman. Give me back my dog food.”
He kept yelling and cursing at my friend. I heard about dog food but I didn’t see any dog food in my store.
“Excuse me, sir. I don’t know what’s going on with you. But you can’t stand in front of my store cursing at my friend and the customers. Sorry, you have to leave now or I will call the police.” My tone was stronger and louder than the way Asian women normally talk. I was firm and direct with him, and my hand still held the broom.
“Get out now before I call the police.”
The man was afraid and walked out the store still cursing. I went back to the register and told my friend to give me the phone. Then the man walked away from our store.
My friend finished checking out customers. She looked at me and said.
“I’m so glad you got him out. I was very close to yelling at him. I will shut him up!”
“He’s already gone. What’s going on? I heard he yelled about dog food.” I asked.
“Do you know the man who begged next to our store, the one said on his sign that he’s a wounded veteran?
“Yes, I know him. He sat there every day and night.” I answered.
“The tourists gave him a bag of dog food and he didn’t have a dog. He asked me if I have a dog and I said yes. So he gave me a bag of dog food. But that moment an old homeless man saw and wanted it because he is going to sale and get cash for alcohol or drugs. The veteran homeless man kept telling the man no. He told the old homeless man that the dog food is for me. That’s why I brought it and put it behind the bar. The old homeless man wasn’t happy. He kept yelling at me that I am a thief stealing from the dog. I didn’t steal anything from the dog. The veteran homeless man gave this dog food to me.”
I shook my head and smiled. I can’t believe what the old homeless man was doing. He acted stupid and tried to say that my friend was a thief stealing from the dog so he can look good.
“He just wants that dog food so he can sale it to make cash so he can buy drugs.”
The two of us think the same. Even though we try to understand the homeless life, respect them, and don’t judge them but some of them we had learned about and saw with our eyes. We know how they are.
Some homeless are dishonest, lazy, and become thieves (Good cash and don’t have to pay tax to IRS.) It was easy money, easy life, no responsibilities. Some of them steal from the store to sale to tourists at a cheaper price. When they earn a little cash, they buy drugs. Some of them work as a team. If you have been working in the French Quarter a few years, you will recognize some of them.
Overall, see through your own eyes, believe in your heart. Stay calm, be nice, be kind, be friendly, be strong, and be good!️
Natthinee Khotasa-asa Jones and Hardy Jones