Statistics show that only one third of all Americans like their job. This Labor Day, I'd like to recognize five of them, all of whom brightened my day in a two-hour span.
Early one morning I met a friend for coffee at Chocolate Perks in Duluth where our lattes were adorned with cream swirled in the shape of a leaf. When we raved about the artistry, barista Erick Noetzel, said, "This is such a great place to work. I get paid to be nice to people and they encourage us to experiment. I'm learning how to pour a swan." Manager Jimm Nestoras looked on with pride.
"I came here with my family from Australia 15 months ago to start a church and loved coming here as a customer," Nestoras said. "I needed income and I have a passion for coffee and people, so this met all my needs."
On my way home, I stopped by Lowe's in Norcross to pick up supplies for a few home improvement projects. Orrin Lynch greeted me with a smile.
"I need some drought-proof flowers," I said.
"You need to talk to Marko, our gardening expert," he said.
Marko Lacmanovic, a vendor for Garden Vision, seemed awfully young to be an expert.
"A neighbor helped get me hired in high school and I worked here all through college," the Croatian native said. "And I'll keep working here while I get my master's degree."
Not only did he earn a degree in sociology and philosophy at Georgia State, but he also acquired an on-the-job education in merchandising and botany.
"I believe in my company's mission statement. If everything looks nice after I leave the store, it has an impact on the customer. I like seeing customers have an enjoyable experience," he noted philosophically.
For my next project, fixing a hose pad made of concrete pavers that had collapsed, Lynch directed me to Raymond Martinez.
Martinez led me to the paving sand, asked detailed questions about what supplies I already had and taught me how to level things up.
I assumed his specialty was construction supplies, but he told me otherwise.
"I'm in unloading and stocking and I work all over the store. The store provides training as I work, which I enjoy because I have a liking for helping people make their job easier," Martinez said. "I am so fortunate because four years ago I was just looking for work. It could have been any company, but this is a company I can commit to."
As I pushed my cart up to the checkout counter, Lynch greeted me again with a smile.
"You really seem to love your work," I said.
"I know how it feels to be on the other end as a customer," he said. "I love having the opportunity to treat others the way I'd like to be treated."
Hmmm, I might have to give this "Labor Day" column a second thought. I'm not sure any of these guys consider what they do to be labor.
Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.