The man’s countenance was gracious and kind. He obviously had never met a stranger because he immediately engaged in conversation with me. He was a staff person at the Radisson in Crystal City (Arlington, VA) and one of his responsibilities included driving the shuttle. I needed a lift to National Airport. His first question was: “How was your stay with us?”
I replied that my stay was good. He said: “I hope you’ll come back again and bring your family with you. When the remodeling is completed, we’ll be operating as a Hilton Garden Inn. The new look is going to be really nice. The lobby will be much larger and architecturally it has a great design. Besides that, it is going to have my favorite colors. They are orange and green. It will be a very bright and uplifting look. Just seeing it will be a great way to start your day”.
He may have been the driver of the van, but he came across like a public relations person on steroids. He energy and enthusiasm were almost contagious. I had the thought: “I wonder if your employer has any idea how good your are at your job?” The man’s personality and rhetoric couldn’t have been scripted better. You could tell he was riding for the brand. He also obviously enjoyed his work and was well ahead of most in understanding the importance of being service friendly.
The man eventually asked where I was from. When I replied Austin, he asked if I was a Longhorn? I responded that my daughter is a Longhorn and my son is an Aggie. Without missing a beat he smiled and said: “Go with the daughter. She will be the one that takes care of you when you are old”.
He said, “If your son is married, you probably are already aware that his allegiance is to his wife. Consequently, hers will be the family that will eventually come to have more importance to him. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you or respect you. It just means that he is smart”. I was amused by his response, but before I could refute his assertion or ask about his family, he added another thoughtful nugget of information. He said, “Your daughter will always be your girl. She’ll never outgrow the desire to be ‘daddy’s girl’. She will take care of you when you are old”.
I started to tell him that my daughter has already told her brother that she’s watched over us for the past twenty years and that it is his job to manage us for the next twenty, but he didn’t give me an opportunity to interject even a comment. Besides that, my daughter was only joking.
He went on to say, “You’ll always be more comfortable at your daughter’s home. You won’t think twice about opening the refrigerator or using the restroom. It will be different at your son’s home because of his wife. I’m not sure why it is the way I describe it, but I know what I’m saying is true”.
He then voluntarily told me that he was one of nine children. He was the fifth child born into his family. He has four younger sisters. The man himself has been in this country for the last twenty-nine years and he has three daughters. They are all American citizens. One is in college, one is in high school and one is in middle school. He said, “I’m a lucky man because I will always feel cared for and welcomed. I have daughters.”
I asked about his country of origin and learned that he is an Egyptian. He was born in Cairo. At some point in his childhood, his father sent him to live with his grandmother who lived in the country because he thought the schools were better. He added that he felt he had the best of both worlds. His older siblings never had the experience of country life.
I asked about his extended family. Were they still in Egypt? He affirmed that they were. He said, “I’m the only one from my family who set my sights on the United States.” He said, “You know, I’m just a blue collar worker, but I’ve made a good living in this country. If I didn’t like my job, I’d find another job. I live within my means and I have a good home for my family”. He added, “Someone recently told me that they didn’t make enough money. I replied, ‘I disagree with you. Your problem isn’t your salary. The problem is you are choosing not to live within your budget.”
I shared with the man that his wisdom was obviously beyond his years. He seemed very content with life, grateful for his place of employment and intent on making others feel welcomed and valued.
As he opened the back door of the van to get my luggage when we arrived at the airport, he said to me: “You are a Longhorn. Go with your daughter. It will serve you well”. Of the Aggies he said: “They are good for something. I mostly mention them when I’m telling a joke.” Of course, how could I be surprised that he is a Longhorn? He told me early on that one of his favorite two colors is orange.
I wondered later about the man’s life experiences. Was his perception of the differences between sons and daughters cultural? Was it formed through observation of how life played out in his own family of origin? As a rule of thumb, is his observation an accurate description in American life?
I can truthfully say that I think I am equally comfortable opening the refrigerator in either my daughter’s home or my son’s. However, it would be a rare occasion that I’d have a need to do so at either. When it comes to using the restroom, I think of them as a comfort station. Consequently, I’m always grateful for the accommodation.
The man had strengths. He was friendly and personable. He also came across as family oriented and talked with pride about his three daughters. He valued the opportunity of calling the United States home and he was a dedicated employee to his employer. He was grateful to be in this country. In addition, I’d say he is doing his part in making America great.
All My Best!