Thereís this guy at work who always
I mean always, as in 24/7, even when heís
just by himself. His name is Mario. Short, curly hair.
Ear-to-ear grin. Speaks not a single word of English.
Itís contagious. Whenever I see him and
his smile, I canít help but smile too. And then, without
exchanging a single word, we both gradually grin and then
burst out laughing with splinters in our sides.
The other night, I, with my broken
Spanish, asked him why he always smiles. And he replied with
a huge grin and careless shrug, ďMe gusta la vida.Ē
I love life. As simple as that. And then
he went back to frying chicken while dancing to the Spanish
salsa rock music that boomed in the background.
Youíd think that people who work at fast
food joints would be indifferent to life, bored of its
monotony, numb to its hardships. Well, thatís what I thought
too, before I met some amazing people.
Thereís Ruben, who takes me
square-dancing whenever a country music song comes on the
radio and who has taught me more Ďusefulí Spanish words than
all the ones Iíve learned in school.
Thereís Luis, who runs around chasing the
girls and bursts out laughing to hide the pain when he slips
and falls flat on the ground.
Thereís Jony, who goes to boot camp for
acting up in school but is a gentleman at heart, opening
doors and cabinets and doing all the dirty work so I donít
Thereís Jovany, who Ďaccidentallyí drinks
from my cup and is the adorable newbie that asks to work
Saturdays because thatís when Iím there.
Thereís Shaterica, the crazy girl who
keeps colored pens in her hair and makes me extra food to
eat even when Iím not hungry.
Thereís Arnesha, the varsity basketball
player who is my original trainer and my friend.
Thereís Pili, who likes black nail polish
and discusses with me, in Spanish, the presence of God,
Heaven, and Hell.
Thereís Eddie, the stressed-out Filipino
manager who lets me give out free food before midnight to my
friends and whose witty, succinct remarks never fail to make
Thereís Ines, short for Alejandro, the
rocker who argues with me about UFO sightings in Galveston.
Thereís Sergio, who never tells me his
real age, works two jobs, and has jokingly asked me to marry
These are the people Iíve befriended the
past half -year. Saturday evenings would always turn into a
party with Dennis bringing in Chinese food and Shaterica and
I exchanging trade deals with Smoothie King down the street.
There would be music, eating, and dancing, and all of us
running around preparing food or just chasing each other.
Most of them are seniors like me. Some
plan to work there permanently; some already do.
Itís funny, and ironic; work is the only
place I find such genuine people with such genuine love for
life. In school, half the people are killing themselves
(myself included), trying to get into college, trying to get
a career, trying to make money while compromising passions,
trying to find the elusive happiness thatís always in the
future. But few know what or where real happiness is; most
are just propelled along life by an invisible force outside
of their control.
Where is happiness? There is no set
answer to that question. It varies for each individual and
the paths taken to find it. If itís in a successful career,
go for it. If itís in finding love and starting a family, go
for it. If itís in getting into the college of your dreams,
go for it. If itís in frying chicken and listening to
Spanish salsa rock, go for it.
Who are we to judge?
The secret to happiness?
ďMe gusta la vida.Ē