bert.castro.pic


IT’S nice to remember our experiences as first-timers here in America specially those who migrated here during the 1970s.

They were funny but sometimes downright embarrassing.

I remember when we stayed for a week at my uncle’s house in San Francisco on our way to our destination, New York City.

He was a relative on my mother’s side.

It was almost winter time then and my tropically-weathered body was new to the bone-chilling cold of winter.

“You will need this,” admonished my 60-year-old uncle who had just retired from the U.S. Army, and he then handed me a very thick coat similar to those brown jackets worn by American soldiers in the 2nd World War movies.

“Oh, thank you Uncle, you are so generous,” I said.

“This new coat must have cost you a fortune.”

“Not really, I just bought them from the Salvation Army,” he muttered matter-of-factly.

“Is that your military unit, Uncle?” I asked him.

He just answered with a little chuckle.

One time in New York, I happened to stroll around the Union Square area and I saw a big store named Salvation Army, where second hand clothing were donated and anyone who wanted to save more money could salvage anything for just a few dollars.

I wore them proudly to say the least, and even boasted loudly at the parties, “My uncle bought this for me from Salvation Army.”

Now in hindsight, I now knew why my friends were laughing at me behind my back.   

One more thing I remember now with embarrassment was when I started working.

Being new to the job I was not accustomed to a lot of things, the American way.

One early morning, I was the first one to come to the office.

Normally, the department secretary would be the one to set up the Coffee Maker by the pantry at a corner’s end.

Upon seeing that the container was still full from yesterday, and not knowing how to brew a new one, I decided just to turn on the machine.

A few minutes later, the comptroller came in and proceeded first to get a mugful of coffee before going to his office.

Then he suddenly stepped out of his room, rushing to the sink, trying to cover his mouth so as not to spill out the warm liquid.

Then he blurted out to me, “Did you make this coffee?”

I answered, “I just re-heated it since the pot is still full.”

He was red-faced and probably cursing himself, “Son of a gun...”

Where we grew up back home, we don’t throw away such stuff.

Sometimes, we keep re-heating the left-overs or boiling the Batangas Barako ground coffee at least two more times.

That experience is one lesson learned.

Now I shivered at the thought of my company’s VIP talking badly to his peers and family about this newly hired employee.

Filling up an application form for employment is another strange episode for me here.

Back home, it was easy then.

It’s very simple and straight-forward.

At the recruiting office, the Human Resources handed me some form to fill up.

When I thought I had covered up everything, a very beautiful blonde came back to me and motioned me to follow her to her cubicle.

“Let’s just review your application form first before you go to the interview,” she told me.

“You see, on this form you wrote on the question about ‘Eyes’ — ‘20/20.’ The question is about the color of your ‘Eyes’ and not about your ‘Vision.’ Your answer actually should either be either ‘Black, Blue, Green or Brown.’”

“Oh, I see,” I laughed nervously.

“Stupid me! I didn’t know about that. But my eyes are black and white. So should I write that?”

The lady burst into laughter again.

“No,” she was laughing again.

“The white color of your eye’s pupil is not included in the question.”

“Okay, let’s go to the next correction.”

“This one here is about the question of the color of your ‘Hair’ and you wrote here ‘Curly.’ I see that you have a curly hair but the answer should really be either ‘Black, Blond or Brown, etc.’”

I scratched my head and was very apologetic.

I whispered to myself in disgust.

“Here I am just in the filling-up-the-application stage and now I am woefully failing already.”

I felt like running out the door in shame.

The interview with the manager finally came.

My feelings then were not about the questions-and-answers interchange.

I had no feelings of anxieties and I responded to the questions with self-assured confidence — thinking at the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be hired anyway because of the earlier fiasco.

But lo and behold!

The officer asked me if I could start working the next Monday.

Hallelujah!

Thank you Lord.

On the way out, passing by the beautiful blonde’s desk, she congratulated me and told me aside, “You are very funny. We need a company comedian here. Welcome aboard!”

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