I watched the tattoos crawl up his neck. They weren’t anything special. They were somewhere between the essence tramp stamp and well thought ingenuity. Colorful and grey-scaled, they varied in pattern and design. I rarely saw people with markings edging their face. Not many people are so bold. He sniffled as he stood at the computer typing in my payment for my car repair. He took his hand and wiped at his nose, leaving behind a slight smear of engine oil.
He looked over at me as I pointed to my upper lip. He shrugged in dismissal.
–Miss, if I really tried to keep oil off’a me, I’d spend half the day washin’ instead’a workin’. It the fate of this here Auto-technician to be one with oil.
He gestured towards himself, smiling. I smiled back. I loved that he was so pleased with himself and his work. So many people tell me how miserable they are with their job. How they need more. How they wish they had chosen differently. How they don’t have they want or desire. It’s as though they are trying to tally points against each other. “No, I am more miserable.” “Hey, I’m most miserable.” Some days it seems hating work is the end game. You know you’ve made it if you loathe your nine to five.
Not, him. He was everything they weren’t. It was refreshing to listen to him. I nodded politely as he talked. He kept pointing to the screen telling me about all the things that happened with my car even though I only understood half of what he said. He paused, waiting for me to say something.
–So, I can get to point A to point B safe and sound?
–Solid. Thank you!
He chuckled, putting his hands into his back pockets. He looked at me with large sad brown eyes. It was disconcerting given how happily the words bounced from his mouth.
–You work in education?
My eyes furrowed, and I hesitated before responding.
–I knew it. People in education are always kind. Always. We can pick ’em outta the crowd.
My jaw dropped.
–There is no way you can tell what someone’s profession is by how they act. People are people. Not what they do.
–No miss. People do what they do because of how they are. Educators are kind, and they see potential and skill everywhere. They understand what it takes to do something. All the little steps of thinkin’ needed to get somewhere. Most other people. They’re mean. They look at us like we are something to cross off a list. ‘Auto check’ with one big black line through it. Nothing. Just another task. Just another chore.
–But that doesn’t make any sense.
He shook his head at me.
–Of course you don’t understand it, Miss. Cause if ya’ did, you wouldn’t be any different.