Friday, January 25, 2013

The Yellowed Paper

There's a lead-up to this story, so bear with me for a minute.

The warehouse employees where I work are by large hispanic - probably 80 percent. I get along okay on a working basis with the huge majority, the key words being a working basis. I don't start any shit for the most part but don't take any, either. They generally keep to their own race which is pretty much the same everywhere - whites hang with whites, blacks with blacks asians with asians, hispanic with hispanics. Nothing wrong with it, it's all about common backgrounds and interests.
The hispanics I don't get along with are the illegals, the ones that don't speak english very well and the macho youngsters that think they have something to prove. No big deal, I'll work with them but I don't have to socialize with them.
But hell, I don't socialize much with anybody at work, just a select few that I've worked with and known for the past 20 years. There's 150 people out there on any given day and I can walk through the warehouse on my way to the time clock without saying good morning to a single motherfucker. No big deal to me or them. Nobody's life is any richer or poorer because I don't acknowledge their existence, yeah?
Hold on, I'm getting there.

Okay, so about 6 months ago this mexican dude walks past me in the morning and says "Good Morning, KennyLane." Fucking startled me - I've been working with this guy for 13-14 years and that was the first time he ever said a word to me. I wished him a good morning and then went and found out his name. I mean, if he's going to call me by name, I'm going to give him the same courtesy back, you know?
So after that, every morning we'd wish each other a good morning and then never say another fucking word all day to each other. Kinda odd, but whattya gonna do?

Today at lunchtime I'm in the locker room eating and reading and Jose walks in and tells me "We need to talk" in heavily accented but good english.
I put my book down and said "Fire away", wondering what I'd done that he needed to interrupt my fucking quiet time.
He goes on to explain that he was sent to me by one of the other employees to talk to him. He starts off by explaining how he came from a poor background in Mexico and that he came to El Norte on a work visa, sponsored by his uncle, started out working in the fields, then a tire shop and finally at the warehouse. He told me how much he loved this country.

He had my full undivided attention. I didn't say a fucking word, I just let him run with it.

He told me that America has given him many opportunities that he never would've had in Mexico, that his children are the most educated members of his family, that one of them was going to college, something that he never dreamed of being possible. He said he and his wife have studied hard to learn about America and were about to become full fledged citizens.
But something bothered him. Why are the crooks and jefes (politicians) trying to change this country? Why aren't they paying attention to the Yellowed Paper? Why are they trying to disarm the people? Was it about control? Corruption? Why?

I was having a hard time at first understanding his accent until I quit trying. I thought it was cool that he referred to the Constitution as the Yellowed Paper. Very articulate without realizing it. Poetry with his simple language, you know.

He said that he was told by Rob that I was the one to talk to about politics and the Constitution. I told him that I had no answers for him, I wondered the same things myself but that I thought he had a better grasp of things than most natural born citizens, maybe because he'd known worse.
He wanted to know if I would defend the Yellowed Paper and I told him yeah, to the death. He was quiet for a minute and wanted to know if my people would accept a Mexican in our ranks, that he wanted to know more than he could learn on his own and he figured we could help him out. I told him that we'd accept an American, no matter his race or background and just when was he going to become a citizen? Next month, he tells me.
I asked if he'd do me a favor. I took the III patch off my hat and handed to him and asked if he'd have this in his shirt pocket over his heart when he took his oath.
Motherfucker got all teary-eyed on me, man.
So now my lunchtimes are taken up on the days that our workdays coincide, Wednesday through Friday, for discussions on the Constitution, the Yellowed Paper.