Located on the perimeter of Vancouver’s Granville Island Public Market is a charcuterie paradise known as Oyama Sausage Co. Even the name is delicious, isn’t it? Oyama! How you have spoiled me, Oyama. I don’t dare estimate how much I have spent on your glorious pâtés and cured meats. I am a blubbering fool when it comes to food.
Today I want to broadly applaud Oyama’s entire operation, the crown of the marketplace in my humble opinion. Specifically, though, I would like to single out the happy French-speaking man with the ponytail who sang as he worked behind the counter in the summer of 2010. Let’s call him Singing Counter Man. I presume he has since moved on but perhaps he finds this.
A little context. The summer 0f 2010 was a spiritual furnace for reasons I will eventually disclose. For now, let’s just say things got unusually fiery at work and my identity was tested and refined. It was brutally painful and it brought me to my knees in prayer. It was the third time my identity unravelled and God exposed all the ugly bits of myself I had braided away safely. He later lovingly redeemed all the struggle. More on that latter. For now, charcuterie and jubilant counter staff.
If you haven’t experienced Granville Island, I pray you do soon. Please. Go relish it in the early hours of the day – before the tourists arrive – when the air outside is heavy with sea salt and the seagulls are less aggressive. (Apologies in advance for the gulls.) Step inside the marketplace, close your eyes and inhale deeply. Crisp local produce, buttery warm croissants, rich espresso, pungent cheese, aromatic spices and freshly cut flowers – and all before arriving at the Oyama counter. I realize this combination may induce nausea at worst or confusion at best but I assure you, Granville Island is anything but nauseating – at least until the tourists arrive – and even then, it is spectacular. You’ll just have to trust me.
But I imagine working at Granville Island is not for everybody. It gets incredibly overpopulated in the summer. I imagine stress soars with the escalating volume of the crowd and patience is in short supply. It’s not easy to shop in chaos and if you have toiled in the public sector – food, hospitality, retail – you know that toxic customers breed in stressful shopping areas. As an employee, it is easy to surrender to cynicism and despise the human race.
If ponytail guy at Oyama despised people he sure fooled me. He was sincerely so kind and quick to serve. The way he hummed and waltzed behind the counter sometimes made me giggle because it was so charming. Like something out of Amelie. (Please, somebody tell me they remember this man so I don’t sound like I’m making this up.)
On the mornings that were particularily hard for me that summer, the idea of hitting Granville Island before work helped me pick up my feet and get moving. Each time this particular man served me, I left filled with an extra measure of joy and as such, my suffocating workload got a little less of me.
Thank you, Singing Counter Man, for bringing your whole joyful self to work each day and serving the public with gusto. Thank you for serenading people liberally, addressing ladies as “ma cherie” and flashing your brilliant smile. Thank you for choosing to acknowledge the good in people and transforming an otherwise meaningless transaction into something enjoyable. Your kindness was powerful.
And thank you, Oyama, for providing us with some of our finest meals in Vancouver. The only thing better than your delectable food was that I never had much to clean up after a picnic. I wish you many more generations of success.