It was an unusually hot July day in thePennsylvania mountains and the whole town seemed to be relaxed. I reluctantlyawoke to a sultry room and was forced to get ready for work. I slipped into myswimsuit and shorts and headed for the pool that was only a few blocks away. Thetemperature made it feel like I was crossing the Sahara Desert. I rounded thecorner, and the chlorinated waves of the pool seemed to call my name.Unfortunately, I wasn't a lifeguard; I worked at the concession stand.
Walking across the scorching pavement, I could feel its heat through mysandals. After a few turns of the key the heavy door creaked open and the smellof pizza and popcorn hit me. The room was unbearably hot since the coolers anddeep fryers had been running all night. I opened the windows to let in any breezeand started making pizza and arranging the candy and chips as aesthetically aspossible.
I was in the middle of stacking the cotton candy into a pyramidwhen my boss Sonya walked in. She was in charge of it all: inventory, orderingsupplies, contacting retailers, scheduling, pay checks, hours, and the overallflow of the stand. This was really impressive for someone who was only two yearsolder than me. The weight of the concession stand was on her shoulders, and shehandled it with ease. She could handle any situation thrown at her. If we ran outof an item, she would give her charming smile, apologize for the inconvenience,and persuade the customer to buy something else. She had a natural ability forrunning a business and getting along with people.
When I started workingthere I had to learn to make all the foods, in addition to waiting on the endlessline of kids screaming outside the windows. There wasn't just one line, therewere about 10 lines that resembled a huddled mass. I struggled to work the cashregister and stocking the pop and ice cream. It was chaotic, but Sonya loved itwhen it was busy. She loved the excitement. I'd be frantically trying to puttogether an order and she would smile and ask if I needed any help, even thoughher window was just as busy as mine.
As the summer passed, I got into theswing of things. Sonya remained as level-headed and kind as ever. In addition toher amazing personality and unbelievable work ethic, something else set Sonyaapart - Sonya is a Little Person.
Her height never affected her work, shewould just adapt. Though I never gave her height any thought, others weren't asunderstanding. I particularly remember one incident with a 12-year-old. He cameup to Sonya's window and when she came over, his eyes grew wide. He stared for afew painful seconds, finally came to his senses, and ordered a few slices ofpizza. Sonya couldn't find the pizza cutter, and realized it was on the topshelf. She tried to reach it, but in vain, so she pulled over a chair, climbed upand retrieved the pizza cutter. This may seem insignificant, but not to that boy.His ignorance thought it was hilarious that Sonya couldn't reach and so he burstout laughing. When Sonya walked back to the counter, her face was red and shequickly gave the cruel boy his pizza. I could see the hurt in her eyes, yet shejust kept on working.
That incident lingers in my mind. I remember the sadlook in Sonya's eyes. I can't imagine how horrible she must have felt. I knowthat if it were me, I would have wanted to cause some sort of bodily harm to thatboy, but not Sonya. She held her head high and went on with her day. At thatmoment, Sonya became a hero in my eyes. She didn't let someone else's ignoranceget her down. At the end of the day, she knows that she is a great person,regardless of her height or what others think. She is comfortable enoughwith herself not to give another's opinion a second thought. That is why, at 4'3", Sonya stands high above the clouds, and truly is a hero in the purest sense.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.