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December 1, 2005


I feel awful right now.  I just had to tell Jose, a hard-working, near-elderly Brazilian, that the job he’d been seeking has already been filled.  The look of disappointment on his face was heart wrenching when I got off the phone with the manager of Carrabba’s Italian Grill, where Jose was hoping to be a dishwasher.  The manager told us that the position had been filled by a bus boy at the restaurant, who was promoted to dishwasher.  Please, somebody who’s worked in the restaurant business tell me:  is moving from bus boy to dishwasher a promotion?  The explanation sounds a little fishy to me–like the manager didn’t want to deal with having someone with limited English proficiency on his staff.

Jose and I had spent the better half of the afternoon driving the forty minutes it takes to get from Bustleton Avenue to the suburb where the restaurant resides, only to be turned away at the door because the manager was busy preparing for a funeral luncheon; nevermind the fact that the manager had requested that Jose visit the restaurant today to discuss his availability (Monday through Wednesday from open to close and Thursday through Friday until 4:00pm–all of the hours in the week that he doesn’t already work for another restaurant).  Along the way, we chatted about numerous topics, some inconsequential, some very consequential.  For example, the fact that his wife works morning shifts at her job while Jose works evening shifts at his–meaning, I deduced, that they rarely have time to spend with each other.  We also talked about his dentures, which he needs to replace.  It’s been eighteen years since he’d been to the dentist prior to last week, when I took him to get fitted for new ones.  Alas, the cost was to be $1,600 to replace his dentures through a private dentist, which is probably more than an entire month’s salary for Jose.  If he were to reduce his costs by seeing a dental student at Temple or Penn instead of a private physician, he would be on a waiting list for months; so he’s going to wait until next year when he goes to visit Brazil–also for the first time in eighteen years. 

Jose hasn’t been bleeding our health system dry.  He’s only been working hard, living simply, and causing as little trouble as possible to the people around him.  I don’t want to kick him out of our country.  Why would anyone else?  Our society should be thankful to have such model citizens showing us what it truly means to be an American:  to seek opportunity then to work like hell to make the most of what is available.  They’re probably the only thing that’s keeping this country from sliding into the decadent decline that the Roman Empire experienced near its end.  They’re keeping the roots of the United States alive, and we’re trying to cut them off like the roots of a picked plant.  But roots aren’t parasitic–they’re the source of sustenance.


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