It's a hot and very humid August morning and the temperature already is nearing 90. No breeze is blowing. There is no relief from the relentless heat. It's just a miserable summer day.
But nothing is going to bring down Cindy Jones on this day, or on any day, for that matter. Her job at UTMB is to welcome people and she's a bundle of energy, sincerely and happily greeting people as they approach the Harborside entrance of the University Hospital Clinics from the parking garage.
"Hi, baby! How are you doing today?" She smiles and waves to one group of people. "Hi ladies, did they treat OK today?" she says to a group of women who are leaving the building.
Just after she helps a man into a wheelchair, Jones sees a car pull up. A woman in the car needs a wheelchair. "Hi baby, how are you today? Did you need to go up today? Where do you need to go, baby?"
She helps the woman from the car onto the wheelchair and smiling and laughing, Jones says, "Wooee. I think I just lost three pounds."
Just about then, a group of Hispanic women approaches and Jones rushes up to hug the smallest and apparently the oldest of the group, "¿Cómo estás? Bien?" They speak for a while and there are smiles all around.
To call Cindy Jones a people person would be like saying that Tiger Woods is kind of good at golf.
In the few minutes after the Hispanic women leave, there is a surge of activity and Jones seems to be everywhere at once. As she bounces from patient to co-worker to patient, she engages in lively snippets of conversation, absorbing, listening and learning as much as she can about her charges. She nods as she learns about when a patient's next appointment is, recognizes and greets a returning patient by name and hugs numerous patients entering or leaving the building. And every one of them gets either a "Hi baby" or a "Goodbye, baby." And they all get a genuine Cindy Jones smile.
During that same period of activity, she has also handed out several cold bottles of water, helped numerous people in and out of wheelchairs and cars, laughed out loud several times and welcomed and good-byed several doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.
Her co-worker, Monica Jene, busily keeps pace with Jones as Jene makes several trips taking patients in wheelchairs into the clinic building.
Things slow down for a few minutes and a couple of UTMB oral surgery technical assistants who are big fans of Jones stop by to say hi.
Linda Gee, who works in the Oral-Maxillo Facial Surgery Clinic, says that it's a treat to see Jones in action.
"She always has that smile on her face and that's so important when you're greeting patients," Gee says. "You know, sometimes you're coming here and you're not feeling at your best and it feels good to see a smiling face."
Young and old alike, UTMB workers, patients and all other visitors all get the Cindy Jones Treatment.
"Everybody is ‘baby' and everybody is her friend," says Jennifer Ditson, a colleague of Gee. "She treats everybody very well - friendly and equal. She's a great person."
UTMB employees who have been here for a while may remember Jones when she worked in a parking garage collection booth. She did that for 13 years as a contract worker, always longing, but not landing, a full-time UTMB job.
That all changed earlier this year when Danny Allen, director of hospital transportation, offered Jones a UTMB job.
"I thought it was going to be transporting patients and he goes, ‘That's not what we want you for,'" Jones says.
Allen, a former member of Galveston City Council, who knew Jones from her booth days, had noticed "how great she was with the customers. All she was supposed to do was collect money or tickets but she went way beyond that. She knew everyone coming here from Dallas to Galveston, Texas."
"There is not a face that she doesn't say good morning to," Allen says. "She's like a mother to all the patients that come to this hospital."
Asked about her rapport with the public, Jones says: "I'm a people person. I've done customer service my whole entire life. Some people have college educations and book smarts. I guess I have the common sense smarts. My philosophy is I treat them as if they were my mother and father and bring that with me every day."
She adds: "I feel I have found a home in the transportation department - being the official greeter to UTMB. I am very thankful for the opportunity."
Jones' infectious smile is rubbing off on other staff members, Allen says: "If you're sick, she makes you feel like you're feeling a lot better. This lady just has a knack for making people feel good."
In the outdoor reception area near a parking garage, a couple of large fans are trying to cool the air as Jones continues her nonstop meet and greet. As the noon hour approaches, the temperature is nearly 100. Jones, however, is seemingly not bothered by the heat.
A garage elevator door opens and about half a dozen tired people, perhaps having traveled a great distance, stagger toward Jones.
She breaks out into a big smile and says: "Hello! You all need some help? Where are you all from? Where are you going today? Anyone want some water?" Faces brighten, shoulders straighten up and smiles break out all around again. A couple of people in the group speak up and Jones gets them going in the right direction.
As that group leaves, yet another car pulls up. Jones approaches and says: "Hi baby. How are you doing today? Where do you need to go today?"