My excitement on the a new job call quickly turned to disappointment when I learned it was from the supermarket in my neighborhood, Winn Dixie. I had applied for the job there only because Aunt Fern kept saying I should. I never really wanted it.
I would have to call them in the morning. Aunt Fern was excited because if I got the job I would be very close to home and she would not be worried about me being out late on the bus.
The next morning I called from a phone booth on my way to my first job. I was told to come by any evening for the next 2 days for an interview. I had the day off at Mc Donald’s so it was perfect. I only had a few days to go before my last day at Mc Donald’s.
That evening I stopped by the supermarket. I met with Jon who was the stock room manager. He asked me a few simple questions. He asked me to tell him a little about my past job experiences. Well was about to talk about Mc Donald’s but realized that I was starting new under my name and a new social security. I explained to him I was a hard worker and that I would do my very best at the job.
He asked, “Would mind working late and lifting boxes”
I replied, “No Sir” with a smile.
I was in no position to give the wrong answers to get out of the job and answered all the questions with positively. My cousin needed his documents to work and I need a start somewhere. All I kept saying in my mind is that in a few months I would leave and get a mall job.
At the end of the interview he told me that they would call me if I were accepted. In my mind a part of me was wishing they did not call.
The supermarket was less than a mile from the house so I walked. It took me about 15 minutes. By the time I got home Jon had left a message. I called back and he told me he now wanted me to work full-time because some had quit. He wanted me to start in 2 days if possible. It would be 5:30 am to 2:00 pm schedule. I was already used to waking up early so it was no problem but now I had to quit my first job. The pay rate was 5.50 per hour. I said yes as quitting my other job would be easy. Even though it had always paid me better but it was hard labor and no social interactions. I had no real friends that I would miss.
I could not wait to tell Sherry-Ann. Our relationship was still going strong. I had not seen her in 3 weeks. The new job would make things better for us to see each other. I could leave work and meet her anywhere. I was dying for the chance to take her to the movie.
I called Sherry–Ann that night and told her I had a new job. Her tone was gave me the impression that she was not very interested in the news. She asked me if I was planning to go back to school any time soon. It was a point she seemed to “harp” on a lot. I think it has something to do with her family. They probably see her boyfriend as a “college boy”.
“Not right now” I told her
“When” she asked
“Soon, I have some things I have to sort out first”, I replied.
I quickly changed the topic and told her that we would be able to see each other more with my new schedule.
The next day I told my boss that I had to quit. It was painless. He paid me cash for that day and it was done.
I was starting to feel better about the job. It was step up from McDonald’s. I would not come home smelling smoky and I would have more time in the evening. I still had to wear a uniform but it was not as colorful as the one at McDonald’s. The biggest thing was I had my name back even though it was not the mall job I wanted.
The first week on the job was really good and on the first day it was final paper work and a tour of the stock room. Stocking was similar to McDonald’s. They did however have a box compressor. I worked with a team with 3 other guys Leroy, Tyrone and Sheldon.
Leroy was a Jamaican with 2 other jobs. He was really funny. He would disappear for hours and then suddenly reappear. He later told me he had little hiding places where he would get some sleep. He owned the radio in the back that was on the Caribbean radio station WAVS 1170. No one could touch the radio. Once when he disappeared someone changed the station and out of nowhere he appeared. He started cursing using Jamaican bad words. It was hilarious as he was very animated.
Tyrone was a black American who had all gold teeth in his mouth. He called all the men ‘My Nig’ which was short for ‘my nigger’ (I never understood why black Americans called each other niggers). He was really muscular as he lifted weights everyday. Tyrone was always rapping and he always had a good joke. He also used a lot of four letter and 12-letter bad words. The type if you used it in Jamaica you might have gotten a beaten from every adult in your family plus you neighbors. He used these words as adjectives and just fillers in every sentence. After a while it was just funny how he used it.
Sheldon was also black American but I think he wanted to be Jamaican. All his girlfriends were Jamaicans and he would try to speak to Leroy and I in patois. He learned it from his Jamaican girlfriends. He sounded very authentic at time as he would tell us stories about Jamaica and even Jamaican jokes. He would come up to you and say things like “Memba wen yuh used to play salada kick with box juice”. He did it to show off how much he knew about Jamaica.
I hate to admit it but after a month at Winn Dixie I was very happy. Leroy and I became a real good friend.
One day we started talking about Jamaica and I asked him when he last visited home. He told me it had been 8 years. His wife and six kids (2 girls and 4 boys) were still in Jamaica and he spoke to them occasionally. He went further and opened up even more. He told me that ‘he ran away’. He was from Kingston and was a civil servant. He knew someone at the ministry at agriculture and they got him on the list of eligible farm workers for the US.
He got lucky and was picked to cut cane in Florida. He came to Belle Glade, Florida as a farm worker and when the contract was up he fled to Miami. He told me he had a cousin who got him a SS and showed him how to beat the system to get other documents. Then he mentioned something that caught my attention. He found a way to get his drivers license. I was tempted to ask how but did not want to give any hint that I was also illegal.
He continued and explained that he worked the 3 jobs to support his family in Jamaica. With a gleam in his eye he talked about his oldest child Andrea who was at the University of the West Indies studying to be doctor. It was costing him a lot of money to keep her in school full time. His hope was for her to come to the USA and finish her studies. After that conversation my mind was racing. If Leroy can do it I can also. I have to figure a away to asking how he got his license without letting him know I was in the same situation.
Fours day later after that initial conversation I came up with probably the most un-original way to ask. I spoke in “patois” so as to try and throw off any one who was listening.
“Leroy whey di I a seh. Mi ave a cosin who has been here 1 year but no liscenss. Ow im can get wan”.
“Im ave social?”, he asked.
“Yeah”, I replied.
“Tell im to first get wan police ID. Dat easi fe get”
As he said this my memories of getting mine came back. I am thinking to myself that I had one part.
He continued “Regista a wan vocational school. Finish wan term den den go ax de school admin to gi im a notarized letta dat ave im name, age, an social pon it. Tek dis letta to Drivers License office an use it wid de social an police ID fe get de license”
“Thanks Leroy, mi wi mek im know”, I replied. I had a smile on my face. I was trying to conceal it so as not to show too much excitement. I started to walk away and get back to work.
He beckoned me back “Ooh mi figet fe tell yuh. Tell im she learn fe drive fust before im go down deh. Dis way im nuh haffi go back.”
I think he knew it was me.
At this point I did not care. I knew what I had to do. That night when I called Sherry Ann the first thing I said was ‘You now have your wish. I am going to be registering for school’.
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