Even with the light beaming through the doors behind him, making it hard to see, I recognized him. It was something more than physical, because he didn’t look anything like I remembered him. Maybe it was his smile.
“How you doin’?” I asked as we shook hands.
“Good, good. How are you?” he asked in his Mexican accent.
We exchanged pleasantries and before long we were reminiscing the good old days.
It’s a funny thing about the good old days; not all of us remember them the same way or even recall the same events.
The man worked for me a long time ago, back in the mid nineties. Artie, short for Arturo, was in his mid twenties, I was in my early thirties. I liked Artie right away. He was a hard working man with a good sense of humor. Right up my alley.
Artie was always very inquisitive. Even after all these years he still is. I’d forgotten how inquisitive he was until he reminded me.
Artie speaks excellent English, but I’d forgotten how he stuttered when he got excited.
“Hey, hey, Floyd… you, you, you, remember when, when, when, I, I, first started working for you? Eh, eh, eh, and I didn’t know you. And I asked you how long you worked for the, the, this company?”
My mind raced. And I vaguely recalled it, but noting more than remembering him working with us.
“No,” I smiled, knowing where the conversation was headed.
“You, you told me. Eh, eh, and then I asked you how much they paid you?” Artie was laughing at the punchline only he knew.
“No,” I shook my head and chuckled.
“Yeah, you, you, you told me ‘not enough’!” Artie was belly laughing.
It is in those moments that you remember. I don’t remember what my motives for not telling him who I was at the time.
“Even after you finally told me you were the owner, I, I, didn’t believe you! The, the, then James told me!”
If laughing does extend your life Artie’s gonna have a long one. His laughter was so contagious we stood there in the middle of the plumbing aisle of The Home Depot busting a gut.
Artie was just getting started, “Hey, hey, hey, Floyd. You remember when those guys building those stairs were, were, were taking like three days to build them? Eh, eh, and you told them they were taking too long?”
“No,” I confessed. I didn’t recall it at all. That’s been an on going problem in business my whole life. Nothing about that has changed in the last thirty years.
“They kept taking like three or four days to build those stairs… and you, you-you told them you could build them in one day. You remember?”
I shook my head. That too was nothing new to who I was back then and still fight not to be now. But those guys were costing me more money than they should have been. They just didn’t know it.
“Yeah, those guys, they didn’t believe you. They were like ‘no way’ he can do that’. And then you came out the next day and, and, I carried the 2×12’s for you and, and we built those stairs in less than a day! You remember that?” Artie was beaming with pride.
“Yeah, I remember. Now that you told me. I’d forgotten all about it,” I admitted.
We talked for thirty minutes. I was reminded of a lot of memories that I’d forgotten. It was good to catch up and laugh. Artie reminded me that I’d taught him that once he’d mastered framing that he’d be able to do anything. He took the basic concepts of plumb, level, and square, and applied them to his own small business.
Artie and I are a lot alike. We’re workers. My blue collar dad and older brothers taught me the value of hard work. And that work is a gift. Even when the world was perfect Adam’s gift was to work the Garden. I still often think of that verse, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet…”
In a world now where a lot of people are trying to not work, I respect the ones that see it as a gift. Then they use it to provide for their loved ones and even the ones that aren’t working.
Artie and I exchanged numbers and a handshake then finally went our separate ways. I’ve spoken to him a few times since then. We have some jobs that we need reliable man like Artie on. And his smile.