Monday, February 01, 2010


There was a knock at my door at around 11 and as expected, Frieda barked as if she sniffed Satan.

I swiped her up into my arms fearing that this would be the one time in 8 years she decides to bite someone. Weighing in at a hefty 9 lbs, comprised of mostly hair and a collar, she wouldn’t make much of a dent anyway, but one needs to be cautious.

When I opened the door I discovered a short brown and hairy fellow. Don’t let me forget, dirty. It was the plumbing guy that was here to fix the heater. The heat stopped working yesterday only to coincide with the one time in two years that my body decides to cough and have a fever. I bitched internally about how cold it was and how untimely this malfunction was as I gazed outside the full length windows of my apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Woe is me.

My internal bitching quickly transformed into internal guilt over bitching. Afterall, not too far from comfy Pac Heights there are people in the Tenderloin suffering far worse ailments and with zero shelter. Thank Goodness for residual Catholic guilt.

Back to the brown guy. He began his work steadfastly and without much interaction with me. He spoke English to me when he arrived and I assumed he was Mexican. After a few minutes of wondering whether he really knew what he was doing, I asked him if he wanted some tea, coffee or water. He answered that he would like some tea, which honestly took me by surprise. I offered herbal, black or chai and he said chai to which I deduced that he was Indian. The stereotypes were in full bloom.

He took his tea with only honey. I was dieing to put milk in it. Chai with no milk? Guess he's not Indian.

He thanked me for the tea and I watched him attempt to repair the heater. He wore very large shorts that were 3 inches short of being full length jeans. In the upper hemisphere, he wore a grey turtleneck covered by a white t-shirt. It has been very chilly in SF lately. His feet wore very worn leather boots which led me to believe he had been working in plumbing and heating for a while. Inexperienced laborers usually wear sneakers.

I sat on the arm of the couch and continued to watch when he asked me if I spoke Spanish, to which I replied, “si”. We spoke for a few minutes and then got into figuring out where each one of us swam over from. He asked me what ethnicity I thought he was. I guessed Mexico. He said, no keep guessing. I guessed Nicaragua and El Salvador. I was wrong, but they are all the same right? Wink. He is from Guatemala. When I told him that I was from Colombia, he said that he wanted to visit Colombia and that he felt that Colombians were intelligent and that unlike his country, Colombians actually invented things. It was nice to have someone recognize Colombia for more than the usual American pastimes, pot and cocaine. Ok, that wasn’t nice. He said that he loved his country, but that people weren't innovative and didn’t teach their kids how to acquire wealth. I rebutted that Guatemala was rich in folkloric culture and amazing art and textiles, but I knew what he meant.

I am not sure how we got off of the subject of our countries, but we began to talk about this country and the state of the economy. He is hopeful that things are looking up. He said that this is truly the land of opportunity, but that things were out of balance. He didn’t say, the rich are getting richer etc. He said, too many people were living beyond their means and buying homes they couldn’t afford and that a few people were getting paid too much for their jobs.

After a while I forgot that he was the repair man who was here to change my heater and was enjoying a nice chat with a smart man. We talked about relationships and children. We talked about business. I told him I was working on launching an internet start up for people who love food. His eyes lit up and he said, “you can do it”. I needed to hear that. I asked him what his plan was and whether he intended to go back to Guatamala. He had not returned to his country for 5 years. He said that he had three businesses in Guatemala, a liquor store, a boutique and a small grocery store. He started all of them with money he makes here and he employs 5 people that are not family. He also said that any money he makes he re-invests into his businesses and has never taken a loan. This mans stock was pretty high by this point. Mine was dropping.

I told him that I was really impressed and that I hoped I could be successful too. I asked him who taught him about life and business. He said his parents told him that they didn’t want him to inherit their poverty. They told him to work hard and learn and create something for himself. I had never heard of someone referring to poverty as something you “inherit”. I guess there are a lot of things you can inherit from your parents that don’t involve wealth. His parents gave him the desire to want more and the determination to make it happen.

He asked my name and told me his name was Celsio. I asked him to spell it. It was a peculiar name for a latin american male. He said that his father was Celsio as well as his grandfather and great grandfather. Celsio, the fourth.

Celsio plans to return to Guatemala in a year or so and re-join his family. He will take his 6 year old half African American son with him and I am sure he will continue to be successful there. I only hope that I can make my business a success and buy my mother a home like Celsio did for his mother.

This was the most enlightening sick day I have had in a while. Thank you Celsio.


Post a Comment

<< Home