Give us an hour -- we'll give you a story.
That's the idea behind The Daily Gazette's "On the Clock" feature, which runs biweekly on Saturday. Reporter Jeff Wilkin spends one hour with someone at his or her job. Conversations and situations that develop can be funny, dramatic, strange or unexpected.
The series began last winter, and 22 "On the Clock" profiles appeared on the Life & Arts pages during 2011. Wilkin spent time with a hardware store manager, a dentist, a stage manager, a bus driver, a farmer at market, a stereo repairman, a Halloween ghoul and a registered nurse, among many others.
The Gazette is always looking for people to follow on the clock. If you have any suggestions, contact Wilkin at 395-3124 or at email@example.com. We'll make time for them.
Here are six memorable scenes from 2011 "On the Clock" subjects, chosen by Wilkin:
Man for all seasons
* Mike Aragosa, commercial sales manager at Marty's True Value Hardware Store in Schenectady, was on the job during a winter afternoon:
Lots of photos
See some of the photos we've taken 'on the clock' HERE.
At 20 past the hour, a man pays a $191.67 repair bill for his snowblower. The job in the hardware store basement has included new belts and a cleaned-out carburetor. Fifteen minutes later, a guy wearing sunglasses, winter vest and blue jeans is also standing at Marty's front counter.
"I came to bail out my snowblower," he says.
"We'll get it back to you later today," Aragosa answers.
"Any idea when?" the guy wonders. "I'm going to be running around."
"After lunch? One or 1:30?" Aragosa proposes.
"Later would be better," the customers responds. "Closer to 4?"
Aragosa schedules a late afternoon delivery. Not all his winter sales involve products that clear ice and snow. Just after the sunglasses man leaves, a new customer needs two duplicate keys made.
"All seasons," Aragosa said. "The busiest time is back to school. The kids don't know where their keys are from last year."
* During the spring, Guilderland dentist Marshall L. Price filled a small cavity for 10-year-old patient Victoria Gagnon -- it was Victoria's first cavity.
The doctor prepared Victoria for her first shot of Novocaine, which longtime devotees of Crest and Colgate know numbs the gums and makes dental procedures easier for both dentist and client.
"Scooch up a little higher on the pillow," Price said, ready with the needle. "Open wide and close your eyes. . . . you're OK honey, relax. Breathe through your nose, you're doing great. Open up a little bit bigger. . . . What a kid! You're done. You are fantastic."
The procedure was routine. Price had explained that one of Victoria's already loosened lower baby teeth would be removed to provide better access to the tooth scheduled for renovation.
"It's not going to hurt when you pull out the tooth, right?" asked courageous Victoria, a fifth-grader at Pinebush Elementary School in Guilderland.
The answer was no. The loose tooth came out quickly and without a flinch from Victoria, who had brought a small toy lamb with her for company. "I didn't feel anything!" said Victoria, a bit surprised.
"Hey kid, I told you I was good," Price said in a good-natured tone. "Now you're not worried anymore."
Queen of the roads
* Niketa Tolliver, a bus driver for CDTA in Schenectady, took a late afternoon run to Albany on an early spring day. She was on a new BusPlus route, a limited-stop service line.
It's her third round trip of the day, and coins and pass cards have not been in the mix for admission. As part of CDTA's promotion for the new bus service on the Route 5 corridor, the fare is free today. The regular fare is $2 cash or $1.40 on a pre-paid fare card.
Traffic is light at State Street and Erie Boulevard. "But this is rush hour, so it might get a little busy," Tolliver said, watching cars, trucks, pedestrians and traffic lights through the giant bus windshield.
Ten people are waiting at the Veeder Avenue-Nott Terrace stop. Glass doors fold open sideways and passengers do quick two-steps into the 40-foot-long, red and silver taxi.
"Ain't got no money," says one man.
"It's free today," Tolliver answers.
"I know," he says with a smile, taking one of the cobalt blue seats decorated with splashes of rainbow color.
Tolliver, dressed in CDTA's royal blue collared shirt and black slacks, gets moving. "Steuben, next stop," she announces to her riders. She's got her dark, auburn-tinged hair pulled back into curls. Some friends and riders have seen a resemblance to singer and actress Queen Latifah. "I used to hear it every day," Tolliver said.
* Ulster Park farmer Tom Maynard is a fixture at the Schenectady Green Market. He sold fruits and vegetables -- and defended his flamboyant sun hat -- during a Sunday morning over the summer.
On market days, Maynard is part farmer, part comedian and part showman. He's got green pint- and quart-sized baskets of plums, apricots, white nectarines, green beans and peaches -- white and yellow -- and baskets of corn, cucumbers and broccoli for sale.
Last Sunday, Maynard spent market time talking about his produce. Customers chose their favorites, and Maynard gingerly placed each piece of fruit into a paper bag. Sarah Nechamen, 17, of Schenectady, and Montana Dunn, 14, of Fort Plain, stood farther down the line, working scales, taking cash and giving change. Nectarines were $5 a quart, green beans $3 a pint, broccoli $2 a pound, corn on the cob 60 cents each or $7 a dozen.
By 11:10, Maynard had sold four boxes of plums and had heard several good-natured inquiries about his hat.
"Montana, you keep making fun of my hat, I'm going to get one for you," he said to his assistant.
"But you look so pretty in it," said a woman browsing the Maynard vegetable stock.
"Pretty is the word I'm looking for," Maynard said.
On the water
* Summer means dinner on the patio at the Waters Edge Lighthouse in Glenville. It also means hours in the sun and on the run for waitress Terry Gallo of Rotterdam.
The filet and turkey Reuben were next on the delivery list. Gallo had three other tables in her section, and more people began to enter the restaurant to begin their weekends. Most were wearing sunglasses, shorts and sandals; most wanted to be outside in wicker chairs, where easy-listening musicians like Carole King and The Mamas & the Papas kept a low profile on the music system.
"This is our most popular spot," Gallo said of the exterior. "People feel closer to the water; they want to be able to see the river, see the boats."
At 4:37, Gallo looked around for her 19-year-old son, Vincent, a sophomore at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. The teenager is working this summer as a Waters Edge busboy.
On the patio, the Holdens had finished their dinners. Their plates were clean. "Well, I see you didn't like it at all," Gallo joked. At 4:45, her new friends were served cups of coffee. Bruce Holden considered dessert, passing on carrot cake, chocolate fudge cake, tapioca pudding and others displayed on a goody tray presented by busboy Max Zampella.
Holden thought twice about the dulce de leche, which means "milk candy" in Spanish but means caramel-drizzled cheesecake at Waters Edge. "With a name like that, you have to try it," said Marty, who declined a third course. "All right, I'll take it," said Bruce, up for a challenge.
Inside the restaurant once again, Gallo saw her son carrying a small stack of salad plates. "Keep walking, boy," she kidded. "That's what you get for working with your mother."
* Eugene Paquette of New Scotland works a second job every fall -- scaring people as "Pedey," the redneck cannibal at the Double M Rodeo and Western Store in Malta. Some nights before Halloween were better than others.
The tractor pulling the trailer rounded a curve on the grounds and approached Terror Town. Tyler Schroeder was up first -- he burst from one of the prop buildings and yelled, "Whaddya doing in our town!?!"
Nobody on the trailer answered. The tractor approached the star of the show, who quickly turned away from his fire.
"Welcome to Pedey's Barbecue," Paquette said, in a loud, clear voice, rifle at the ready. "Y'all ain't here for dinner, y'all just might BE dinner!
"Now," he added, pulling a six-gun and walking close to the wagon, "which one of y'all wants to be my SACRIFICE?"
There were no answers. Paquette returned to his fire after the 25-second performance and said there were no real scares, either -- no final destination for anyone.
Light rain was still falling at 7, but the tractors and people kept coming. At 7:05, the fourth wagon rolled away from the barbecue stand and Paquette returned to his fire. It was a rough night for ghouls.
"Can't scare nobody!" he said.
The next flatbed rolled through at 7:08 and had some live ones aboard. "Now," Paquette said, "which one of y'all wants to be my SACRIFICE?" A young woman giggled and offered "Pedey" her friend. "She'll be delicious," the woman said.
Paquette stayed in character. "Y'all think this is a GAME?" he yelled, insulted and indignant.