Saturday, July 19, 2008

Get To Work!

When I held the door for him he refused, gesturing me to enter before him.

He had long hair tied tightly into a tail behind his head, extending from under a greasy baseball cap. His clothes looked like he did some kind of labor involving engines - auto mechanic? or a farmer with a tractor that needed a lot of care? His beard was bushy and his eyes hidden behind dark glasses.

I heard his voice before I saw him. We approached the Deming post office at the same time, and he called out to the Mexican man selling the local newspaper by the front steps: "Hey!! Get to work!" He said this with a flashing smile and a loud chuckle as he bounded up the steps. I met him at the door and he bade me go ahead of him. "I'm in no hurry!" he said.

I looked around for voter registration forms. Didn't find any. So I got into line right behind him. His turn came and the clerk at the window looked directly at him. There was a hesitation and my fellow customer broke the silence by saying, "Hey! Get to work! You're supposed to say 'Next!', arntcha?"

"You're standing right in front of me," answered the clerk, and the customer gave that same chuckle, something between amusement and spitting.

His "get to work!" seemed to be his greeting to anyone, even strangers, yet I was the only one around him who was between jobs. On August 4, I get oriented as a brand new faculty member at a charter elementary school here in town. We moved here less than a week ago, and are still unpacking boxes and getting used to the little house we are renting. I take walks to learn my way around. There is plenty to do and yet as far as the job goes I have been feeling antsy. "Get to work!" indeed. A strange way to greet somebody and yet I smiled.

Outside, I stopped to buy the local paper seconds after my compatriot had left and, in parting, waved to the newspaper man. "Get to work!" he said and marched down Spruce Street.

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