The summer of my freshman year at college a friend of my father got me a job in a large automobile plant. I was a vacation replacement for all the kitchen help in the plant cafeteria which involved working a variety of kitchen jobs; it also involved taking a lunch wagon out into the plant along the assembly lines selling soup, coffee, sandwiches, sodas, etc. There was one employee, a tall, thin, dark, curly-haired fellow who did nothing but push a lunch wagon his whole shift. He did not work in the kitchen at all and he was the only wagon-man whom the manager let figure out his own money on returning the cash box to the kitchen. I assumed it had something to do with seniority and so I never asked anyone about it. There were other things curious about Carlos. He very rarely if ever offered a comment or a hello – usually ate by himself and always had a book to keep him occupied for the duration of his break. He was the only co-worker I saw with a book in his hand in the three months I worked there. But it was not these peculiarities that prompted me to reminisce about Carlos – it was the day I decided to sit and talk to him that caused me to try to find him. He was sitting reading at a table by himself and I sat down opposite him and apologized for not introducing myself sooner. He looked from his book and smiled and it was only then that I knew him as Carlos. I inquired of him, reluctantly for he did not seem in a hurry to engage in a conversation, what it was that he was reading. He looked up, slowly closed the book and told me that he was reading about God. It was a moment or two before I could comment for I was quite astonished not only at what he had said but also at the way he had said it.
“Just what is God … do you think?” I asked in as sincere a way as I could of someone whom I had had so few words with.
“God is” – and then he paused –
I was not looking at him but I felt as though I were being sized up, as though this guy was trying to decide just how he should reply so as to impress my own particular intelligence. But as I glanced up to see if he was indeed studying me this suspicion did not seem warranted. He was staring what seemed miles beyond my presence.
“He is the common ground ….. It is what made you ask”.
He got up directly and explained that he had to go back to work but that he had enjoyed our conversation very much. It was the next day that I quit the job because of a union dispute.
Fast forward to senior year, majoring in metaphysics and a drug-induced epiphany that Carlos is someone with whom I should discuss my latest philosophical malady – that being – while it is good to talk about God, most people don’t – ever. I took an afternoon off from classes and drove to the plant. On entering the cafeteria I recognized many of the people I had worked with and they nodded that they remembered me. I went into the manager’s office and introduced myself; he also remembered me and asked how I had been. I explained to him that I was looking for an employee that I had worked with and that all I really wanted to know was whether he still worked here and if not what his last name was and perhaps an address. The manager explained that this was no problem since he kept such records and asked me who it was I was looking for.
“I would really like to get in touch with Carlos, I have something important to ask him.”
The manager did not remember Carlos and this surprised me greatly for as I mentioned I had thought him to be the kitchen worker with the most seniority. I described Carlos as thoroughly as I could, but the manager remembered no such employee; had no record of such an employee or of any Carlos at all. As I left his office and walked back through the kitchen, I asked everyone who remembered and spoke to me if they knew how Carlos was getting on. Carlos who? – was the only reply.