I remember waking up every morning to the strong lingering smell of my dad’s morning coffee set on the kitchen table right next to his truck keys that were just waiting to be picked up. As soon as he stepped out of the door with his keys and coffee in hand the cold breeze snuck in behind him and filled the house. He would quickly start gathering his tools, lifting the heavy machines onto his truck, and securing them for the long trip to who knows which city. As soon as I heard the engine of his truck, I would speed out the house and jump into the cold passenger seat, freezing but happy I would share a few minutes of unpredictable funniness with him before having to go to school. His humor is one of a kind; he can make a joke out of everything, and never at a wrong time. My dad has always been able to find happiness in everything in life, but work has been the place where I have seen him the happiest.
There are few things I must explain about my dad; he has quite a unique name that I love Netsai. Most people think they can’t pronounce his name right, so they just call him Cortez. He is always cheerful and loves making a joke out of everything he can, although he can be serious when he has to be. He also loves discovering new things, fixing things, and making the people around him happy, especially kids, which means buying giant bags of candy or simply granting their wish of tacos from the taco stand. He is pleased with seeing smiles, happiness, and laughter around him. My dad always wears plain colored t-shirts with blue jeans, and most of his clothes have paint stains, little chunks of cement stuck to it, and well, he just looks as if he is always ready to get dirty for the job.
Now for you to understand the passion my dad has for his job, you need to know about his usual work place in which he is the happiest and does his great house transformations. On our way to my dad’s project site, we slowly get through the heavy traffic of people rushing to get to work and onto the freeway. We hear people beeping left, right, and even behind us; the irritating sounds continue until we are no longer in Los Angeles, the city of traffic. As we make our way out of LA, I notice there are no cars beeping or trying to pass us now, but there are eye-catching things around me. I see mountains just a few feet away from me, and although it was hard to see clearly because it ran so fast, I believe I saw a coyote. I’m amazed more than ever; I feel like I’m breathing the freshest air.
In order for you to understand what my dad is like at work, I should let you in on a few of his work dos and don’ts:
- Don’t ever think of it as work.
- If there is a problem, there is always a solution.
- Always be happy.
- Never rush. Take your time.
I have shared many memories with my dad, but one that stands out the most is the day I missed school to work with him. I was getting ready for school, and I was soon going out the door. My back was to the door, but I heard it open; I turned around and it was my dad with the big smile he usually has.
“Negra,” he joked. (“Black.”)
He is always making fun of how dark I am. I giggled.
As I continued to get ready I overheard him and my mom talking in the kitchen.“Me quiero llevar a Tracy a trabajar con migo,” he said happily. (“I want to take Tracy to work with me.”)
“Yo no se, preguntale a ella,” she replied. (“I don’t know, ask her.”)
I jumped into the kitchen and stared at them with a grin. “I want to go with him!” I rejoiced. I dropped my things and grabbed my handbag while gathering a few snacks to eat on the way. He looked so happy that I was excited to leave with him. I ran out to his truck and jumped in. His truck is always so cold, but it seems like that’s what makes his truck so unique, just like him. He never minds the cold leather touching his hand or the steering wheel being just as cold while driving. However, he loves having his hot coffee that my mom makes him every morning in hand while driving. He offers me a sip of his coffee as we head down our street and into the gates of heavy traffic on the main street. He sits patiently while cars try to pass him and others are beeping at him as if he could just fix the traffic by magically speeding up.
I don’t understand how he can be so happily patient with this? I question.
The beeping and random cars trying to get in front of other cars continues for another fifty minutes until we are no longer in Los Angeles. As we drive further form our home I notice things that make me smile; I see mountains. I see more greenery than buildings, and I notice how much bluer the skies look here than in Los Angeles. The smell of his morning coffee has vanished by now, and as he rolls his window down, I s smell the fresh air coming in from his window. The freeway we’re on leads us in between two mountains that have little dry plants and bushes spread out.
“Aveces ahi coyotes en las montanias,” he says with a smile. (Sometimes there are coyotes in the mountians.”)
I start searching the mountains eager to try to spot a coyote, but it is quite difficult because of the speed he is driving. As we continued to drive I randomly choose to look a little more carefully, and by surprise, I caught a coyote hiding behind a bush and peaking its head out. My dad saw my excitement and simply grinned at me.
“Ya casi llegamos,” he informed me. (“We’re almost there.”)
We drove out the freeway and into a small street; I spotted a big two story white house, which turned out to be the house he was going to be working in. He parked and once again, I struggled to exit the truck, while my dad easily stepped out the truck. I hurried to the other side and stood by him while walking to the house. He rung the doorbell and an older lady opened the door and introduced herself with a smile.
I was too caught up seeing what was around me that I didn’t catch her name.
“I am Netsai Cortez,” he tried to say in English.
“I’m Tracy,” I rushed after him.
She giggled and took us into her home. I looked around, and as we walked through the house she tried to explain what she wanted him to do. My dad is a constructer; he knows plumbing, electricity, and just about anything there is to fixing a house. From what I remember, she told him to clean her house. I was confused, but my dad nicely grinned and nodded his head okay. I stood, by him randomly bumping into him as we continued being escorted through the house. I can clearly remember gripping on his shirt to keep me right behind him; his shirt with little rough chunks of cement scraped my fingers when I gripped tighter.
She walked away and my dad got to it.
“Tu limpia el rifrigerador de la cocina y yo limpio el que esta en el garage,” he smirked. (“You clean the kitchen fridge and I’ll clean the one in the garage.”)
He brought me two towels and water with soap to clean the inside with. It didn’t take long for me to be finish, but it took my dad even less time. He was just walking up to me as I was getting up from picking up little bits of trash that fell out from the fridge.
“Tienes hambre lencha?” he questioned with a smile. (“Are you hungry lencha?”)
Lencha? To this day I question how he gave me that nickname. I don’t even know what it means! I smirked.
“Si, ya tengo hambre,” I answered slowly. (“Yes, I’m hungry already,”)
It had been about four hours since I ate, and he knew that I loved eating every hour I was able to, so his plan was to get me full for a couple of hours until it was time for us to leave. So we jumped into his truck, and the cool breeze hit us while driving off to the nearest Mexican restraint he could find. We were now at a red light, and slowly but intensely, a dancing aroma of tacos, burritos, and chicken came along and sneaked into our nostrils. A right turn it was; we were going to get lunch there. The smell was amazing, but it looked even better when we were looking right at it.
“Yo quiero un burrito de asada!” I exclaimed. (“I want a burrito of asada!”)
“Okay pues y mas vale que te llenes,” he joked. (“Okay then, you better get full,” he joked.)
I giggled because most likely I was going to get hungry again in an hour or so. We got our food and left to eat it in the truck. He started speaking about how I must be confused about the fact that we cleaned fridges this morning instead of making cement or painting the house. He explained that sometimes people pay good money to do simple things. Sometimes it is because they are lazy, but sometimes it is because no one else is willing to do it for them. He had remodeled some of their house, just a couple of months ago, which is why they offered him the small job.
I guess a job is a job no matter what, and even the smallest jobs have to be appreciated because money is always necessary.
As soon as we were done eating, we buckled up and found ourselves back to the older lady’s house. He brought down his ladder, a bucket, and some yellow liquid. He stretched the ladder out next to one of the second floor windows and then began to climb up with the bucket full of some yellow cleaning chemical, and a tool. He began by wetting the window with the cleaning solution, and then wiped it off and cleaned the window. He continued this pattern on all seventeen windows and the backyard door.
“He’s a great person,” the homeowner said to me softly.
I didn’t even notice her coming towards me, but that made me smile because that was one of the days I saw him doing his job, and it wasn’t his usual job, but he smiled all through it, never complaining.
“I think he’s the greatest,” I smiled softly.
As soon as he was done, he picked up the rags that were once white and now looked as if they had fallen in charcoal. The water he used went from a bright yellow to grey, and now it had a hideous smell of dirt. He put equipment back in his truck and quickly wiped his hands on his shirt while waking back to the house.
“Ya es todo mija,” he grinned. (“That’s it, my daughter.”)
We gave our goodbyes to the sweet older lady as we headed out the door. I ran around the truck and quickly climbed into my seat. He started talking to me about life again. There is nothing I love more than hearing my dad talk about life in our car rides.
This day made me understand that a job doesn’t feel like a job if you love it, and that sometimes any job is a job. I have always seen him do hard work like caring his heavy equipment up and down stairs or working with a mask on because of the bad smell he tries handling. Seeing him do anything from the easiest job to the hardest job makes me appreciate all he has given us because of his hard work. Now it is my turn to do any job, easy or hard, to keep my family financially stable.