After five months or so of working in the Washington Town Office, I can say a lot of life passes through there. People come to register cars, boats and trailers new and old; register to vote and vote in elections, pay taxes, license dogs, apply for building and other permits and for myriad other purposes. And, of course, just to chat a while.

Every interaction at our service windows contains a story. People tell us about their parents, their children, neighbors, vacations and more. I was touched one day in the first weeks I was there by a middle-aged man who came in to register a boat. He had inherited it from his father, who had died in the last year or so. The previous year, he said, “I didn’t have the heart to register it,” but now it seemed like time to get the boat back into the water. What might have been a perfunctory transaction became a tale of loss, grief and at least a measure of healing in which we played a small part.

Or the father who came in recently with his son on a Monday evening to register the son’s new used car. Dad let the young man do most of the interacting with me, as I filled out the various forms involved in processing a new registration after a vehicle is sold. As I recall, I had to call the dealer for the previous title number, so the whole thing took a little extra time. Finally, the teen handed me his cash and I handed over his new registration. He looked relieved and happy.

There are regular visitors to the Town Office: Select Board members, the town assessor, the code enforcement office, the fire chief; and some we only see occasionally. Everyone gets a friendly greeting and our best effort to help them with whatever they need.

Even those we can’t help we assist as much as we can. The office regularly gets calls from people who have business with Washington County who have found our phone number online. We explain that we are the town of Washington, in Knox County, and give them the phone number for Washington County.

When I say “we,” I mostly mean my two colleagues, the town clerk and the more senior deputy clerk. As a newbie, I often find myself asking people to hold on a minute while I ask someone who knows for the answer to their question. I am learning, though.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my coworkers was out sick and the other had to attend a conference, so I had my first “solo” morning in the Town Office. I was nervous, but the clerk and I had agreed that if something came up I didn’t know how to handle, I would simply explain that I was still new and ask them to return the next business day. With some coaching from the coworker who was at home, I got through the shift with no problem. Everyone who came in was understanding, and I felt proud to be able to help them. It felt like a milestone.

Sometimes it is odd, though, seeing people in a different context than I’m used to. The other day a woman I’d dealt with a lot, mostly over the phone, when I worked for The Courier-Gazette came in to pay property taxes. I didn’t recognize her face or her name at first, and then she said something like, “You have a new job,” and I realized with a start who was on the other side of the window. I explained about my retirement and coming to the Town Office and we shared greetings. It was nice to see her again.

I have enjoyed working in an office where everyone is kind, the laughter is frequent and a smile, combined with a sincere desire to help, goes a very long way.

Sarah E. Reynolds is a former editor of The Republican Journal.