My name is Manuel. I‘m a waiter and I’ve been serving pizza to up to 300 clients a day for 32 years now at El Cuartito. It’s fair to say I like it here. The place hasn’t changed much and the neither has the neighbourhood. I quite like it that way. The personnel has changed a bit but the bosses, the quality of the pizzas, and the intensity of work have remained the same. If you ask me, I wouldn’t change a thing!
I remember my first day here, 11th May 1980. It was a Sunday. It was busy and I was pretty nervous – I was young. I was 25, I had finished my military service and worked for a couple of months at a Casino in Formosa where my family is from. My uncle had told me he could get me a job in Buenos Aires, so I came and that was a huge change for me. But then I had to work again the next day, two days passed, three, then four and that was it became routine. At first I thought I would just stay for a couple of years, earn $20 and then head back to Formosa to buy a house. But I was lucky, got good bosses, who insisted I should stay. They told me here you’ll be registered, here is your social security, everything very honest and upfront. So I stayed. And I don’t regret it. I’m turning 58 this year, so I’ve cut down the hours – for 20 years I worked more than 12 hours a day, now I only work five.
What I like the most about this job is the people – 32 years and I haven’t had one argument, be it with a colleague, boss, or client. Not one. I think that’s a luxury few people have. Nowadays the regulars come and always say ‘hi’, give me a kiss or a hug.
There are a few people in particular that always lift my heart when I see them, a couple who have been coming here for over 20 years. I saw them as a young couple and now they’re in their sixties and they still come once a week, always wait for one of the tables that I serve to be free, always ask how I am doing, and if for some reason I’m not working they will worry and ask my colleagues about me.
There was another family that used to come every Saturday for lunch, they were 8-10 people and they always sat at this table. The whole family would come, from grandfather to little children. After a few years they stopped coming, the grandfather who lived around here, passed away. Well the other day this guy comes in, and I say to myself ‘he looks familiar, where do I know him from?’ He goes and sits at the same table, at that point, I remember. He was one of the grandchildren! I go up to him and say ‘Your grandfather was German right?’ He says ‘yes’, and looks a bit strangely at me, he must have been a teenager when I last saw him. And then I ask him; ‘you’re the one that likes chicken empanadas right?’ And that’s when he recognised me. He was here with his kid and he actually got very emotional. Those are the moments that are special for me and that I keep in my heart.
Now I think I’m going to stay here till I stop working. It’s getting closer, I’m going on 58 years and in a couple more I’ll be able to retire. My boss has told me that after the retirement age I can stay as long as I want though, so I’ll have to see.
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