I’ve written a lot about the mechanics that have worked at the shop over the years, but have said very little about the delivery drivers. Right now, we have three drivers. One I’ve only met once because he works out of the Miami warehouse. The other two, Arturo and S, I see every day in the beginning and end of the day. S is about 40, hard-working, always shows up on time, never complains, hardly say anything come to think of it. I’ve known him for three years and I still barely know him. The only thing I know about him personally is that in his spare time he works on Volvos. He buys them as junk and fixes them up in his yard and drives them for a while and then resells them. Nothing but Volvos.
The other driver is Arturo. Arturo, unlike S, is a talker. Whenever you call him to reroute him or explain a delivery, he’s always on his phone talking to someone. It could be 7:15 a.m., noontime, 2 p.m., it doesn’t matter, he’s on the other line talking to someone, I don’t know who. Maybe it’s the same person every time, or maybe it’s a lot of different people, all of them as bored as him. Whatever the case, that’s what he does, and when he comes into the shop at the end of the day, he’s Mr. Observant. S doesn’t notice anything. Or if he does, he doesn’t say anything. He just sets his clipboard with the day’s deliveries on the counter and walks out of the shop quietly. Arturo, on the other hand, walks around the counter with his papers and comes right up to where your sitting. He will them explain what’s on the papers as though you couldn’t figure it out yourself, and while he’s doing that he’s noticing anything anyone in the office is wearing that’s new. Shoes, socks, jewelry, hat, shorts, any material item – if it’s new he will notice it on the very first day it’s worn and say something. If no one’s wearing anything new, he’s scanning the boxes and papers and packages around the room, or looking at your computer to see if you’re looking at something that doesn’t relate to the business. The other day when he came in I had the screen open to an article in German, and of course he had to say something, even though he couldn’t read a word of it. “What’s that, Mike?” A few days before, I had a book about drawing on my desk. The book was under some folders and a pair of sunglasses, but a portion of the title was sticking out, and I saw Arturo’s curious, razor-keen eyes stray over it. Strangely, he didn’t say anything that day, but the next day, sure enough, he got to talking about how his wife and son liked to draw and paint.
“Like you,” he said.
“Like me?” I asked. “How do you know I like that?”
He told me he saw the book on my desk.
So now I make sure everything’s hidden and all the tabs on my computer are closed before he comes into the office with that roving lynx eye.
The subtext to all his observations and remarks, by the way, is annoyingly obvious. It’s that the people in the office are just goofing off doing non-business things all day, and yet we’re getting paid more than him – a fact that’s revealed and reinforced every time we come in wearing something new. Not that Arturo can’t afford anything new. I’m not going to get into his pay, but judging by his house and a few other things he’s acquired since starting to work for us, he has little to complain about.
Anyway, when nothing’s there for him to notice – I’ve recently taken to closing all my computer tabs and covering my notebooks before he enters the room – we try to make friendly conversation. Mostly it’s just small talk. You can’t get into anything deep with Arturo. Philosophy, anthropology, psychology, history, fiction, poetry, politics – his flattish, oblong skull isn’t wired for any of it. It’s all about the phenomena on the surface. Material items. Shiny stuff that costs money. What a man HAS as opposed to what a man IS.
The biggest difference I have found between Germans and Americans (generally speaking) is that when a German walks into your house, he or she will gravitate to your bookshelf and look at the books you have been reading to figure out what’s going on in your mind. The American will gravitate to your bookshelf only if it looks like an expensive one. The books in it mean nothing. And this, if you ask me, is the number one reason why this country is in the abysmal state it’s in now. It’s something that had to happen.