When I was about sixteen, my friend Reinaldo stopped by my house early one summer morning after the school year had ended. Of course, I was sleeping because I was relaxing from another demanding year at grammar school. He told me that he had found me a job at a fruit stand. I was surprised because I had never told him that I was looking for a job. Rey worked on a fruit truck that drove through the neighborhood and stopped to sell fruit and vegetables at the curbside. As a sixteen-year-old young man, I was impressed by his well-paying job and how he was so proud of it, epecially since Rey was only fifteen. Anyway, when they were buying their fruits and vegetables at the market before they started the day, the owner of a fruitstand asked Rey if he had any friends who spoke Spanish and English. The fruitstand was trying to attract Mexican customers since so many lived in the neighborhood. Rey immediately thought of me. Well, I liked the idea of working so I could have some spending money during the summer.
Well, when I went to the fruitstand, the manager told me that the owner was on vacation. I would have to work three days a week: Saturdays and Sundays, and another day during the week as needed. My duties included unloading produce from delivery truck and waiting on customers. If the customer was Mexican, I would have to wait on them in Spanish. I don’t remember how much I earned, but it seemed like a lot of money to me at the time. The owner was supposed to give me a raise when he returned from vacation, the manager told me. I worked there all summer and never once saw the owner.
Well, at first there weren’t that many Mexican customers, but the manager would call me to wait on anyone who looked Mexican. He decided who was or wasn’t Mexican just by their appearance. He was judging people based only on their appearance. And I, as a Mexican, wasn’t always so sure if they were Mexican or not. This kind of bothered me until I realized that he was always right. Now that I am older and wiser, I realize that he was exercising good business sense.
By the end of the summer, many Mexicans were shopping at the fruitstand. My friend Rey would stop by occasionally when they ran out of some product on the truck and they would buy it at cost from the fruitstand. He was so proud that he had found me such a great job. And I was so thankful to Rey for thinking of me for this job!
What did I learn from this experience? I still haven’t quite figured it out yet. But I’m sure that I learned something.