Portland author/publisher, sometimes Mercury-contributer, and my coworker, Kevin Sampsell, has a great essay over at Salon about helping a suicidal customer at Powell's Books, and how it relates to his own emotional struggles. There's lots of interesting insight into how working with the public can lead you into complicated personal situations and how the troubles of strangers can reflect your own. It starts with a great hook:
On this day in late 2007...while I worked at the front info desk at Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., a frazzled-looking young guy stood silently in front of me.
“Do you need help?” I asked.
He shifted his weight from one leg to the other. “I’m going to go jump off the Burnside Bridge,” he said.
Every cell of my body lit up, but something in my head told me to play it calm.
“Why are you going to do that?” I asked.