The Undocumented or Self-Documented Worker

No names
I finally had the front left tire blow on the truck. After observing the state that it was in,

I decided to replace both front tires with some really good used ones that I got for $50.

I used the spare to get me to a tire place, and inspected both the brakes and the rotors while the tires were off. The pads had a nickel(16 nickels/inch = 2 mm/nickel), a dime(1.35 mm), and a penny (1.5 mm)’s worth of clearance to the rotors (4.85 mm or plenty), and the vented rotors seemed to meet spec (28.5 mm minimum).

The big burly guy who helped me with balancing the tires,

wasn’t able to get the old tires off with the tire iron that I had. The first one broke, and the second one needed more strength than either of us had. This is the first car I have ever had that I couldn’t change my own tires on. It’s also the first car that I’ve had that is both warm in the winter, and not cramped to sleep in.

With his beard and overalls, the fellow looked Amish to me. Maybe someone shunned from his community?

I noted the odometer reading on the truck.

I’d done some work in the area before with the latino population – the ones that stand on the street corner and look for work. They had taught me many day labor basic skills. I had worked doing carpentry, masonry, landscaping, roofing, digging for pipes, etc. It’s hard to get the work. One pretty much gets up at 3 in the morning in sometimes freezing weather, and stands out on the street corner for a couple of hours usually for a week or so, before someone will finally give you a shot at some work. The good news is that you are usually, but not always, paid at the end of the day – sometimes up to $10/hr. And the comraderie can be decent. Plus, you get to learn/practice Spanish.

I knew though that you have to look cleaned up and decent to get some work. It’s pretty competitive. So, I looked around for some ways to get a shower, and stumbled on the one week free trial offer at the gym. That seemed like a good way to go.

Arriving at the gym, they were going to give me a tour of the facilities, but I was late for the tour with the blown tire. So, I introduced myself.

I started with a 5 min. fitness test on a bike on the lowest level,

and followed this with 3 back exercises on the weight machines repeated 20 times each at almost, but not quite, the lowest level.

I finished with a 5 minute walking exercise, again on the lowest level, but this time, with a heart monitor. My pulse got up to 135.

The nice thing is one kind of gets an indication of how many calories you burn doing each kind of activity with the monitors. The monitors are powered by your exercise, so there is not an energy cost to worry about.

I measured my weight, which was not great news.

And then took a shower, that allowed me to check my feet.

They looked good. So, the point was to look at problem areas for me, and very gently test to see if any of the exercises would hurt my back. The next day, I felt my back, but nothing felt bad. I felt confident that I could increase the times, loads, maybe by 20%, and maybe do a few more muscle groups.

I finished the day out at Walmart, measuring my blood pressure and resting heart rate. My initial reading, running into the store had a systolic of 150. But I read it again, as I took a deep breath and rested, and the numbers were 118/65, with a resting heart rate of 98.

I slept out in the truck that night with the dogs, and woke up to windy, freezing, weather and later on that day, snow. It was too cold for the clothes that I had which were still summer clothes, and needed washing, to boot. I also needed a haircut before I introduced myself to the guys. These were some of the problems that needed to be solved. The good news is that I had laid a new gasket seal on the top of the windshield, and it had held very nicely in the weather. No more leaking water. The bad news was the heater stopped working in the truck. Probably its a blown fuse on the blower. Anyway, still a few problems to be ironed out, but mostly the weather problem. I would be working outside, probably, and needed drier weather to have any success finding work – raking leaves, or gardening.

I had the weekend to rest and clean up a little. I cut my hair, and spent $20 on some socks, sweatpants, and a sweatshirt for work. So, Monday AM, I’m out looking for work with the guys.

As I approach, they naturally assume because of my lighter skin that I’m looking to hire. I smile at them and state matter of factly “Busco trabajo.” The guy gives me a wry look “EVERYONE is looking for work,” he responds in English. So, the usual questions…Are you married? etc. I notice a different bird among the 50 or so sparrows on the ground.

We are about 21 people. There is a young guy sitting down on a rock feeding the birds with his leftover bread. “Tengo frio,” comments another guy as he approaches and introduces himself.
After a bit, an english-speaking guy named Julio comes up, and starts a conversation. “It’s unusual for a woman to be out here.” I said, “Yeah, there aren’t too many women who do, but I’ve done it in the past. It’s my first day out in this area, though, in a while.” He asks me if I do domestic work. I said, “No, not really, I’ve done some roofing, brick masonry, drywall, etc.” He said, “Yeah, it pays better.” We talk a little about places we had travelled to, the “Occupy Wallstreet movement”, and some other stuff. He asks me if I have a place to stay, kids, etc. So, he’s kind of the guy in charge around here, I muse, the one who makes sure that everyone gets enough to try to live decently, that we don’t all kill each other in this struggle for survival.

A little later, he asks me if I want some coffee. It’s a test. Although it hurts to spend the money, it’s important to show that you support the location that gives you the spot to look for work. Also, they have cameras on the entrance, so if anything goes drastically wrong, there will be a record that can be traced. I walk in with him, and get the reusable cup. It’s almost the same price as a throw-away one. He offers to pay. Test #2: I pull out my $2. It’s important to show that:
1) You are not looking to be supported.
2) You have been good enough at finding work to be able to come up with $2.
He doesn’t say anything, but what he really wants to know is “Am I starving? Do I have enough to eat?”
We go back out, and I am happy for the warmth of the mostly decaf coffee. A little later, the cops show up. We had been there about 2 hours all in all. We all split. “See you tomorrow.”

Some birds later at Seneca Falls, and a workout at the gym where I measured both my maximum weight on the different weight machines, and then divided this usually by 3 to get a weight to do reps with.

I started the workout out with 15 min. bike ride at a heart rate of 118 (a 60 calorie workout).
Machine max weight reps weight for reps
Rowing Machine 60 pounds 3X20 20 pounds
leg extensions 200 pounds 3X15 70 pounds
abdominal 30 pounds 3X20 15 pounds
seated dip 120 pounds 3X20 40 pounds
butt blaster 9 pounds 1X10 each 4 pounds?
hip abductor 100 pounds 3X20 40 pounds
standing calf 155 pounds 3X20 55 pounds
biceps 30 pounds 3X10 10 pounds
triceps press 90 pounds 3X20 30 pounds
lower back ext 165 pounds 3X20 60 pounds

For some reason, my alarm clock on the phone doesn’t work at 4 am. It works at other times – just apparently not 4 am. Still, with a little bit of concentration, I wake myself up. Out looking for work again. This timer it’s warmer, and I’m out by about 6am after running the dogs. I drive, since I’m having problems catching a bus. At the 7-11 this time, Julio isn’t around.
I initiate conversations with the guys, since no one really wants to talk to me: “¿Buscas trabajo?” I’m never really sure whether to use the more familiar address, but it’s common among workers.
“Yeah” : he replies.
“Yo también,” I smile: “¿Qué haces?”
“La pintura,” he replies. “Estoy esperando mi patron que viene de Virginia. Mucho tráfico.”
He’s mumbling a lot, so I’m having to ask him to repeat himself in order to understand him. “Cómo? Que dijiste?”
I find out he’s from Guatemala. He asks me if I have papers.
I reply: “No importa.”
Some more guys arrive, advertising their trade a little more loudly with their paint-splattered pants. I felt inappropriate with my clean sweatpants.
Another one approaches and introduces himself. He wants to know, “¿Tienes un esposo, tienes ninos?” I reply “No.”
He asks me if I have a phone. We exchange numbers. He quickly calls me, “¡La Mamá! ¡Mi Amor!” He exclaims on the phone.
“Busco trabajo”. I reply seriously.
He answers, “If you don’t find work, let’s have lunch.”
OK. This is NOT working. I move to the other side, as someone picks him up. By now, it is 8:30, and several of us are starting to light up smokes or eat donuts. It’s pretty clear that work isn’t happening.

Some of the people move across the street. I move with them. A new guy approaches. He shakes everyone’s hand, but refuses mine when I extend it. His buddy moves away from the pole where we were all gathered, and I move into his spot, leaning against the pole. The guys all move a little further down. They are probably thinking this is “Occupy Latino Street.” It’s not. I need to make rent. The Security guard comes over, and I leave. He follows me, and tells me “I kick them out everyday.”

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