I always try to make it a habit to be friendly with the back of the house guys. Their jobs are way harder than mine and their hours suck, specifically, the dishwasher. I always feel bad for the dishwasher because I know he is the first one to get there and the last one to leave. Our dishwasher is named Angel but everyone calls him Baby. His English is not very good but it’s still way better than my Spanish. Some people may look at him as “just a dishwasher” but if anyone can speak two languages, they get all my respect and then some, since my stupid ass can barely get through one language.
Most of our conversations are like this:
Baby: How are you?
Me: I’m good. Cómo estás?
Baby: Good. How are you?
Me: Good. And you?
And so on and so on…
A few days ago, we ventured into our most awkward conversation ever. As I am emptying a tray of glasses, Baby asks me how old I am. I don’t mind telling people my age but most of the time they are surprised when I tell them. My youthful appearance (good, clean livin’…) and the fact that I wear an apron for a living tends to make people think I am younger than I actually am.
“46,” I say. ‘I will be 47 in a couple of months.”
Baby’s eyes grow wide in much the same way mine do when I see a brand new bottle of vodka. “Really?” he asks. I don’t know if he is shocked or saddened.
“How old are you?” I ask him.
He tells me he is 19, meaning he was born in 1995, meaning that The Cure t-shirt I sleep in is older than he is.
So far, this isn’t that awkward, but wait.
“I’m probably older than your dad, right?” I say. “How old is your dad?”
“How old is your father?” I repeat.
“Oh…” He looks down for a brief second and then his eyes meet mine. Very quietly and with much sincerity he says, “I don’t have a father.”
Okay, so now I officially feel like an asshole. I’m just trying to have a light conversation with the dishwasher and I feel like I just opened up this 19-year old wound of hurt and sorrow. He has no dad. No father taught him how to throw a ball or helped him shave for the fisrt time or gave him a set of tools for his 18th birthday. What a dick I am. I don’t quite know how to respond, so I ask him how old his mother is. All this, to simply poke fun at my own age.
He smiles at the question and replies, “Treinta y seis.” He can tell I am trying to figure out what those words mean and he follows it with, “Thirty six.”
“Thirty-six? Man, I’m ten years older than your mother!” I say, but as the words are coming out of my mouth, I do some quick math in my head and realize that his mom was just 17 years old when she birthed him out. Basically, I just reminded Baby that his mother was a ho who doesn’t know who got her pregnant. Nice job.
I smile nervously. “Treinta y seis, huh? See I’m so old. Man, am I ever old. Ha ha ha… Anyhoo, can you wash the silver for me, por favor? Yo neccisito mas silverware. Gracias.”
From now on, I might just stick with our “how are you/I’m good” conversations.