Saturday, 31 July 2010


ON ONE or two occasions in the past, I have been known to lament about the woes of having to sweat a little at work.

Being more inclined towards the leisurely elements of life has meant that the prospect of sustained exertion has always prompted in me some degree of horror. Occasionally though I come across someone like Antonio who rightfully fills me with shame for feeling anything other than grateful for my many privileges, among them the opportunity to work.

Amongst the group of Mexican workers on our site Antonio is the boss and, being the only one fluent in English, he is also the one with whom I converse the most. Only yesterday though did we get round to the story of how we both came to live and work in Vancouver.

In a nutshell (because that's all it's worth) I told Tony the story of how wanderlust had brought me to Canada and regular lust had resulted in my staying after the rest of my initial crew left.

Tony's trip to Canada started much earlier in his life than mine. At 16, with very little English, he left his home in Mexico for the US and settled a few hours south of Vancouver in Seattle. Despite the obvious language problems he managed to get enrolled in a high school where he would go on to master English while also keeping up with the other students in their regular classes.

Not having the support of a family in Seattle meant that once school ended at three, Tony would go straight to a nearby restaurant where he worked as a dishwasher until after midnight.

After proving himself to be a hard worker, and improving his English, he went on to become a busboy at one of the city's most exclusive restaurants. There he would sometimes make up to $250 a night thanks to the tips of the super wealthy clientele, amongst which Bill Gates was occasionally counted.

After he left school, he found daytime work with a framer and although it was lower paid than the busboy gig, Tony had found work for which he had a passion and an aptitude.

The most amazing element of this story, however, is not how Tony went from such humble beginnings to owning a successful framing company. Even more unlikely was the confluence of events that led to him meeting his wife, with whom he now has two children.

In the same month that he turned up in Seattle with almost empty pockets, Tony's wife enrolled in the same high school after her family had moved to the States from their home in Poland. Within a year the two were dating and within three years they were married and on their way to Canada and new opportunities.

"It's amazing the way things can work out to make two people from completely different parts of the world meet like that," he told me after we had finished work on Friday. Listening to him talk, it was obvious that the wonder and fortuitousness of their paths crossing has not been lost on him over the years.

Although he had a happy youth, Tony swears that he does not remember ever owning a single toy and having built a relatively comfortable life for himself in Vancouver, he now takes great pleasure in spoiling his two daughters.

And while he seems more likely to credit his life in Canada to God or good luck, I reckon it's down to his likeable nature and fierce work ethic, both of which I am most jealous.

Either way, I'm glad to have heard his story. Nothing like a dose of perspective to show up seemingly fret-worthy woes for the minor issues they truly are.

No comments: