Thursday, August 31, 2006

Saving the Life... of a Plant?

“Senora Barbara” I heard as I looked up from my computer screen on Wednesday at my office. It was Sandra, the daughter of the woman who cleaned my office in our old building. She always speaks to me in Spanish, even though she is now fluent enough in English. She was offering me “a beautiful plant” someone had discarded in a garbage can. What I gradually came to realize was that she wanted a temporary home for the plant because she is not allowed to take anything she finds in the trash.

Sandra came to this country from El Salvador at age 15, when her mother (who is still in her 30s) could afford to send for her. She is now 19, a recent high school graduate, with a 1-year old baby Michelle. Following in her mother’s footsteps and following the example of so many Hispanic immigrants, she cleans offices. It’s a job that requires no English and pays reasonably well.

I have come to know this family well, serving as their English-speaking go-between for everything from ordering bulky trash collection to being an advocate for one of the boys in the PG County School system. I am rewarded handsomely with homemade tamales and pupusas from time to time. They have given me a window into the lives of Hispanic immigrants. I now understand just how hard they must work to accomplish things we take for granted or never have to deal with at all, such as navigating complicated bureaucracy and gaining legal status in this country.

Sandra’s “beautiful plant” now sits in the corner of my office, with the hope that the building “police” will not come along and snatch it because it has parts that “hang down”, the kiss of death for plants in the new building. More than one person has taken those long plants home or thrown them in the trash. The other problem is that many of us have interior offices with absolutely no natural light, not a healthy environment for plants.

Whereas she cannot leave the building with the plant, I can carry it out and drop it by her apartment, where it can continue to grow even longer under her loving care. It is a nice plant that certainly doesn’t belong at the bottom of a dumpster. This philodendron was rescued...

7 Comments:

Blogger Old Lady said...

Here at the trade center all of us rescue plants from the trash. They are not very strict where plants are concerned, just gratuities and gifts.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

That's kind of cool. Saving the life of a plant. The fact that Sandra knew to come to you to do it.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Parts that hang down? Did some person actually come up with that rule or was it generated by a beaurocratic computer program?? How ridiculous. And how great you are to save it and pass it on when the time is right.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Along with the "clean desk" policy (meaning no papers left out when you go home at night), there is the new policy forbidding plants that grow down over the edge of a surface, as a philodendrum is prone to do. I keep thinking it is a good thing David no longer works here because his world is one of organized piles of paper -- clean desk is simply a foreign term for him!

11:08 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Many immigrants work hard - too hard in my opinion. They seem to know no other life. As an immigrant and the son of immigrants and having an immigrant wife (originally a foreign student) and immigrant friends, I have my own ideas on all this. I have noticed that Filipinos work extraordinarily hard (the women anyway) - often holding down two or three or more jobs (low paying ones). Trying to convince them to get an education and a better job falls on deaf ears. They will say it is nice, but then are back to thinking how to earn more money by working more jobs. sigh. It is an interesting mentality, there is no long term plan for betterment - only the short term "need to work more".

I don't have much luck with plants, although my mother can revive almost any plant - patiently waiting for it to be reborn.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Just as an update -- At lunchtime today, I braved Ernesto to take the "beautiful plant" (which was not looking quite so perky in my interior office) to Sandra's mother's house. She just stopped by with a huge smile on her face and said "Muchisimas gracias, Senora Barbara. Cuido bien la planta."

4:27 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

That's such a sweet thing to do for some very nice hard-working people. We dispose of things so easily without thinking how difficult it is for some others to come by them.

6:06 PM  

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