Sunday I got a message from my sometime boss Segundo, the super at my friends building where I work on occasion. He said he wanted me to work the next day, Monday, but when I got a chance to call back an hour or so later he told me he’d gotten someone else already. I put off making the call and lost out on a day’s pay.
However, he called back on Monday night, and this time I called back right away and he asked me to come in on Tuesday. So that’s where I was yesterday, and why I did not post my usual Tuesday blog.
I worked there for a week last month, and I had to work Thanksgiving Day. During that week it rained one day, and the rain was starting to ice up. Segundo handed me a bucket of salt and a cup and told me to salt the sidewalk.
As I was doing so I noticed that the stuff in the bucket was very powdery, it didn’t look like salt at all. But the bucket said it was salt, and the boss had personally handed me the bucket, so I spread away, leaving big white swirls of this stuff on East 4th Street. You can see the swirls on the picture above.
After I was done I mentioned to Segundo that I’d never seen salt like that before.
“Oh, it’s dog-friendly,” he said. “Doesn’t hurt the dogs feet.”
OK, that was that.
An hour later he calls me down to his office.
“You know, you made a big mistake, Zavey.” He calls me Zavey in his fucked-up Spanish accent because he can’t pronounce XAVIER. I asked him to call me Javier but he’s pretty stubborn.
“”What did I do wrong?”
“Well, somebody used this salt bucket to store plaster in, and you took the one bucket that had plaster in it instead of one of these that has salt in it.” We were in the storage room filled with black buckets of salt. I didn’t mention that he had picked the bucket and handed it to me, and then explained why it was weird salt without even looking at it. I spent the next hour trying to scrape rock hard plaster off of the sidewalk.
When I showed up for work yesterday, the plaster swirls were gone. He’d taken my suggestion and rented a power washer to get it off.
Since there was no icy rain yesterday, I just had the task of sweeping and mopping the floors and bringing down the recyclables from the compactor rooms. This I like to do because I always score the Sunday Times magazine. I like to do the crossword in the magazine, but I don’t like spending $5 for a Sunday Times.
The week of the salt incident I scored three of them from various weeks. Yesterday I only got last Sunday’s but that’s fine, a crossword is a crossword.
I also got to work with Jorge, the old man that’s been at the building in the same job for over 30 years.
The week of the salt incident I was alone with Segundo for three of the days, and he spent some time pontificating on money and sex, his two favorite subjects. He extended the discussion to why Jorge won’t retire, despite being 77 years old and having all the money in the world.
“Look here, the old man’s got a house in Ecuador, a house in Miami, full social security check, full retirement check from the union, and he’s still here collecting a paycheck. He should retire and give someone else a chance.”
I know he wants this chance for his brother in-law Tony, who can hardly speak English according to my friend Tommy that got me the job.
“Why, Zavey? Why is he still here?”
“Maybe the guy likes to work.”
“No, Zavey, he LOVES money, that’s all. He has all this money, and for what? You can’t enjoy your money if you drop dead at work.”
He went on about that for a while, and then segued into sex.
“Now I used to be able to be able to come twice in a half hour no problem, and now it’s a problem. Why? Age, that’s all. My doctor told me when you reach a certain age, it just doesn’t work the same anymore.”
I don’t think I needed a doctor to tell me that one, but I kept my opinion to myself.
“I still don’t need Viagra, mind you, I get it up all right, but it’s not like a rock the way it used to be.”
The guy’s only three years younger than me, and I can certainly sympathize with his fears and frustrations, but I haven’t found the need to vocalize it with anyone. I grunted and nodded in assent in all the right places.
Yesterday we went through the same discussion during break time, except this time in front of Jorge, the subject of his ire. It felt kind of uncomfortable, especially since Segundo insisted on even mimicking the old man’s arthritic walk, but Jorge didn’t seem to mind. Maybe he just doesn’t want Tony to get the job.
“Why are you here?” Segundo suddenly asked me directly.
“Because the rent needs to be paid,” I replied.
“For money! We are all here for money, because without money there is no pretty woman. How old is your wife?” I remember having told him that I’d remarried, but I’d never told him how old Danusia is.
“She’s just a few years younger than me.”
“Oh, no, that’s wrong,” Segundo said with a frown. Even little Jorge shook his head no.
“If a man remarries, he needs a young wife, at least half his age.” This time Jorge nodded in assent.
“At the same age you are nothing more than companions, like brother and sister. Who needs a sister?”
“Well, you know Segundo, I love my wife and we get along just fine.”
I had been waiting for some one to call looking for him, or for an emergency or something to shut him up, and finally the front door intercom rang as the UPS man arrived. This ended the conversation and I was glad I didn’t have to listen to this narrow-minded boor anymore. Made me glad I grew up in New York.