Out of Work and Desperate

A refuge at times- the Silver Club House.

A refuge at times- the Silver Club House- would help me reflect on how I would solve my out of work problem.

The thought of Pug still being my lover was a constant worry to me in those days. For Pug was a better love detective than I once believed. I had thoughts of replacing her quickly as I walked the streets of Colon. I discovered that I could do that when I lived in Magnolia Building back in Calidonia. Her name had been Maria Elena but now she was out of my mind. The girls I had been meeting at Abel Bravo school in Colon, however, were a different story and a real challenge to me as they were quite good looking. Even so, I had gone out with very few of them. In fact, my return to Colon from Bocas Del Toro had been a major challenge as I was an adult by now with a baby. Those fifteen year-old dreams in Magnolia Building of Panama City only came to haunt me for it made me remember my primary school days which would never return again. But, girls were secondary to my biggest headache- I was out of work and desperate.

It had been more than four days since Simeon had laid me off, and so for a while I became frantic to find something to fill the void in Colon and hopefully put some money in my pocket and food in my belly. Typically, each morning I would arise with worried thoughts of facing another day hungry and with no prospects of finding work. Colon had become a rather hostile place where a young man like me could not find refuge – no where to hide- even at the beach for an event less overnight rest. Colon, by then, was not the town to be without work. Day after unsuccessful day made me reclusive and apprehensive at trying to keep out of sight until nighttime. I felt like a convict trying to evade the watchful eyes of the local police who would lock you up just for appearing to be idle- a vagrant- un vago.

I had heard rumors that someone was hiring painters out by the old Gold Roll Canal Zone town of Margarita. I set out that next day early in the morning hoping to meet up with Spanish Negroes, and when I got there- sure enough- under the house they were waiting for their foreman.

Cautiously, I proceeded to try to befriend these guys as they seemed very timid and nervous, but it was all in vain. So, I retreated from them to wait patiently for the man I thought to be the foreman to arrive. Not too long afterwards, he came in and started hoisting scaffolds, completely ignoring me. The team of Spanish black men also started to secure the work area. Determined, I persisted in attempting to join them while I pleaded with the foreman to give me a chance at working with them. Quite brusquely, however, he outright rejected me, as they all, in fact, turned their backs on me, as if to tell me, “You won’t get any job or sympathy from us!” I realized then that it was all a new experience for me as well.

Like an intruder, the hunger pangs in my gut came to remind me that I was ready to faint for want of nourishment since I had not eaten a regular meal for more than six days. More than the hunger, though, the rejection from those black guys had been hard to take, for it came from those whom my grandmother would call my “countrymen.” They were supposed to know how it felt, I thought.

I walked back to Colon from the Silver City Clubhouse which was safe haven for us Chombos but once in Colon City I started to feel faint again. The long walk had been heavier than I had anticipated. I pondered the cold reception I had gotten from those Spanish speaking blacks and I started missing the men I worked with in Bocas, where the young West Indian Blacks I had met were really different. They liked to work with the Spanish speaking people and exuded a sense of solidarity with almost everyone. “Panama,” I thought, as I reminisced about working with people of all kinds even from nearby Costa Rica.

Later that day I visited what had been my regular hangout at Mac’s Tailor shop. Albert “Nick” Brown, was jovial as usual. “Hey! I said to some guy who was there. “I heard you are working and I want to know if you know of anyone needing workers.” He bit back with, “ Hey! I don’t know you, and don’t want to know you either. Get that?” It had been a challenge but I kept my head, not wanting to brawl outside the shop, I just took it knowing that I could take the “Chump!” And so I started to hang out and listen to the radio pretty much as I had done before I’d left for Bocas. I was determined not to stay out of work much longer.

Comments are closed.