I LOVE this phrase.
Not because I’m being told I am right. I love it because it’s said by one of my most favorite people at work, Salim (su-leem’).
Salim is not employed by the hotel, but we all feel like he is. He is, in fact, our dedicated taxi driver. He is the one we call whenever any of our guests need transportation. He’s reliable, he’s fair, and he treats our guests exactly the way we do.
I tend to work mostly morning shifts, beginning work at 6 or 7 am. Sometimes I come up to the desk and he’s already there. He greets me with a huge smile, “Good MORNing, Row-byn”. His accent is adorable. He’ll raise his hand high in the air for our usual high-five.
It’s an awesome way to start my day.
These past few months have been pretty slow at work, (which means it’s slow for him too), so he’ll hang around a little longer to talk. I’ve come to love our morning chats, and I learn more and more about him every time. He’s originally from Somalia. He’s a few years older than I, and has just as many kids. His wife doesn’t work, so their income is solely based on his taxi service. He owns his own van, and has a small group of friends he’ll call if he’s already on a run when we call. If we call him to take a guest to the airport, he returns the favor by giving us $5. Some of the desk agents have come to expect this from him, but most of us, me especially, just REALLY appreciate it. Especially when I know money must be tight for him. I’ve tried to tell him that it’s okay, he should keep it, but he won’t hear of it. So when he puts his hand out with the money in his palm, I shake his hand while taking it, and sincerely offer my thanks. Often he’ll say, “You nice lady.” For Christmas, I wanted to get him something, but didn’t really know what. So, I baked him some of my favorite treats and included a whole bunch of scratch-offs in his card. If he won anything, he didn’t tell, 😉 but he was appreciative just the same.
Many of our conversations have to do with our children, and how hard it is to raise teenagers these days. We gripe about how lazy they are, and how they want, want, want….
I’ve learned that he only has one television in his house. ONE! Because he knows that if he gets another, the kids will constantly be in front of the television. Of course he complains because he rarely gets to watch his favorite news shows, but he won’t give in to getting another. (We have four. And four computers. I obviously have given in… ugh.)
So instead of TV, he will often sit in his Taxi in front of our hotel and listen to NPR. Or he’ll come into the lobby and watch a bit of the news on our TV. Then he’ll come talk to me again, about what’s happening.
I love these moments. He’ll start talking in his very broken English. I usually struggle to keep up with him, catching a few words here and there…. enough to be able to figure out what he’s saying. I’ll help him finish his sentences and he’ll slap his hand on the desk, point his finger at me and say “ExACTly you right. ExACTly you right, Row-byn.”
If there’s nothing in the news to talk about, he’ll come up and say “What’s going on, Row-byn, What’s going on.” He says it melodiously (is that a word??).
I’ll answer one of two ways: “Nuthin’ Salim. It’s too quiet.” or “It’s busy today Salim”. Either way he’ll answer
“You be aw-right.”
If I ask him “What’s going on with you”, he’ll answer “same ol’, same ol’. You know.”
So sometimes I’ll answer him with that same phrase. He always gets a kick out of that.
These repetitive conversations are comforting. Many times we are too busy to get into deeper discussions. (It really takes a lot of concentration from me to understand him), so we’re content with our high fives and “What’s going on…” phrases.
To an outsider, these conversations look meaningless, but to me, they’ve brought an unexpected friendship. How can you not admire a guy who came to the U.S. to give his family a better life. Who works extremely hard for very little, and is incredibly smart. Heck, he knows more about our country than I do. And he’s fighting the same battles with his children that most americans do, but doing a better job of it. He KNOWS how to be a success and he’s effectively guiding his children in the right direction.
Someday I want to say to him:
ExACTly you right, Salim.