I met the ensuing days with a comfortable routine. On many a night, I would lock myself inside the garage after deciding to stay all night, then do the natural things such as bathing and getting a well deserved night’s sleep on a bed roll on the floor of the garage. In the morning I’d change into my dried coveralls and wouldn’t officially open until some of the guys who worked all night at the gasoline pumps knocked on the roll-up gates alerting me that some customer had been looking for me for a mechanic job.
My days flowed like this in some kind of harmony although I still had to get downtown to the Calidonia area daily just to be able to get something to eat. In fact it wasn’t long before that whole area began to grow, but still there were no places that offered anything to eat, which had been what I craved for most of the time, after a day of hard labor. Time moved swiftly and, except for the small inconvenience of having to eat downtown everyday, I was thankful for the luxury of a routine and for my increasing knowledge of automobiles and motors.
Even my routine of washing my work coveralls every night gave me a sense of independence and satisfaction. While hanging them out in the hot garage to dry over night I would secretly thank God I had work to be ready for the next morning. But, times did become slow and the lack of work would worry me. When things got real sluggish, however, I found time to close up and leave the area to visit friends since it was my part of the shop. I had that much freedom. I would also leave early and just go take the day off hanging out in my old neighborhood, confident that I would find tires to repair or do anything necessary to make a buck. I would leave, eat and even have time to meet the old gang, play a game of baseball and now and then, if I was lucky enough, run into one of my old flames as I rode the bus into town spending time with her talking about old times in school.
I started to reflect back on how hard I had worked in the banana fields in Bocas and had ended up completly penniless and it made me consider not really going to the United States for the length of time it might take me to land some job that would make me end up just another “Black male that could be enslaved” and for some white man to say “This one is mine!” However, from Baseline and Bocas Town I had made it to Panama, where I had been born, and I still harbored the hope of going back to see that lady governor of Bocas Province for my teaching appointment.
The present, however, was being good to me. I was enjoying my new routine and the opportunity to have a little leisure time and hang out in my old unchanging neighborhood for relaxation. The subtle changes I was going through were shaping me into the man that I would become. I was constantly meeting up with my contemporaries, young men and women, who, despite how badly we all felt about the employment outlook, had time to be just kids again. During these moments I would ponder such things and then say to myself, “I don’t want to go to no States!” The very idea of migrating to the U.S. Seemed even less desirable since I now had a way of making a living.
My daily routine of a ride into town for lunch would always end up with some bus drivers stopping by to leave me at least two flat tires to fix by the next day. The evenings were cooler so I worked on these tires then which helped me make my living on tips. Bus drivers would almost never leave me without tipping me. They would swing into the garage and yell, “Hey, Pelao! Here is something for you!” Then flip me a fifty cent piece as a way of encouraging me. By then I had come to realize that I was really working days and nights and also came to realize that I needed to rent a room. Some place of my own with a shower stall and a private toilet and water faucet.