Ranger Tim’s notes from Silicon Valley:
I have been rumbling around with a broken exhaust pipe for a week now,
so after lunch today I took the Honda around to Leo’s Muffler, a
nondescript garage at the end of a grubby industrial cul de sac near the
office.Leo, the owner and sole employee, is a ruddy-faced sixty-something
Albuquerque native. While his cutting torch blazed, we talked about the
vacation he and his wife had taken in Canada last fall.
“Ottawa and Montreal, you know, they really impressed me. But those
winters … I think I’ll stick with San Jose.”
He asked me how my French was, and I said, rusty like my car.
“I’m pretty good with languages, but then, I practise.” He had begun
crafting a fine new flanged connector from scratch, and without taking
his eyes off the work, recited a long poem in Portuguese. In soft
musical Brazilian dialect.
“Did you understand any of it”? he asked me, eyes gleaming.
“Elegy. Guy wrote that on the death of his wife.”
Turning back to the pipe bender, he started into a repertoire of Italian
He took a break at one point to introduce me in proper Castilian to the
Chilean deliveryman. “!Mira, un Canadiense que habla español!”
Leo had majored in Romance Language Literature at the University of New
Mexico but when his young family came to California years ago he decided
to apply himself to an honest trade.
“People think that because I know all these languages, and poems, and
books, I should have been something more than a mechanic. But if I
worked in my academic field, I’d be fighting to make twenty or thirty
thousand a year. And guess what? Last year I took home over two hundred
grand from this little shop.”
As I backed my car off the hoist he was belting out a Puccini aria.
My muffler man does good work, and is easily the happiest person I’ve
met so far in California.