I offered Tommy some water or a coffee. He declined and got started testing the battery. He was dressed in a blue, polyester outfit and yellow safety vest.
“How bad has it been this summer, with the heat?” I asked.
“Oh man,” he said, “sometimes when I get home at night, I’ve baked for so long, I can’t even talk to my kids until I cool down.”
“Jeez,” I said, “what’s it like in winter?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t been doing this that long.”
It turned out I needed a new battery, so he swapped out the old for a new.
“What’s the trickiest battery situation you’ve seen?” I asked during the installation.
“The battery in a Dodge Stratus is in the wheel well. You’ve got to take the tire off to get at it. In a Ferrari, the battery is under the seat.”
I had no idea. We talked a bit more about batteries and then I went back into the house.
A little later I brought him a glass of water. He thanked me, gulping it down.
I told him I was a writer and played guitar.
“I used to play drums,” he said, “but when the kids came, I had to start working two jobs.”
“What’s your other one?”
“I work for an armored car company,” he said. “I’m moving inside soon; happy about that cause people get shot.”
“Are you serious?” I said, clearly naive; of course those guys are at risk.
“A few months ago somebody’s partner shot him in the head; then took the money. The shooter had worked there six months.”
I didn’t have to ask if the guy shot had died.
I paid Tommy for the work, shook his hand and wished him luck. As he drove off I was thinking that Bridgeport is only ten miles away, but the sorts of things Tommy faces, folks around here in Westport are clueless about. When I think about the little things that I get upset about, compared to what Tommy deals with, it’s embarrassing to even mention.
No doubt government needs to be more efficient, but it’s not right that in the United States a hard working guy like Tommy must put his life at risk, working 80 hours a week, just to provide a crap apartment in Bridgeport for a family of four. How do more tax breaks for the rich help a guy like him?