It was a bright July afternoon; the sun was burning through the window of my room. This was one of my chilliest summers yet, ’cause after school ended, I didn’t do anything, I just relaxed, hung out with my friends. I also got a job at my friend’s fast food restaurant, so I earned some money as well. I was looking at cars on the Internet, when my mother entered my room.
—Mike, good news—and she handed me an envelope.
I knew what it was; my driver’s licence. I hopped up with great joy from my chair, and ran out to the living room with a big smile on my face, which my dad noticed from the couch, and asked:
—What are you smiling at?
—I got my licence, so please, can I take your car for a spin?
—Congratulations! And yes, of course, have a good time!
I ran to the garage, hopped behind the steering wheel and started the engine. The old pick-up’s diesel engine revs up smoothly; I put it in gear and drove off. I thought that I would invite some of my friends and go driving with them.
—They are always at the park—I thought—so I’ll go there. And there they were.
—Mike, dude, hi,—they said.
—So you got your driver’s license, eh?—asked Bob.
—Yup!—I answered—and I would like you guys to be my first passengers.
—Where should we go?—asked Kenny.
—As you are with a pick-up, why don’t we go a little bit, ya know, off-road.
—Great idea. The roads are now dry in the countryside. Let’s go!
So we hopped in the car and drove to the countryside. We chatted and laughed on the journey, watched the endless wheatfields reaching the horizon, and the harvesting machines, which seemed like tiny ships in the endless ocean. It seemed so nice, no one was out there just us, it was so calm. But this state didn’t last forever, because when we stopped to admire the view and walk from the car a little, in my excitement I forgot to turn off the headlights, so when we headed back, the battery was dead.
—God damn it,—I said when i turned the key, and the starter motor just wauled at me, not turning the engine the slightest bit.
—So what now?—asked Bob.
—I don’t know.
So we sat down for a little, and drank some water, when we heard someone approaching us with great noise from the other side of the car. We stood up and saw an old, beaten-up tractor approaching, pulling a wagon. We waved at it, and it stopped next to us. He stopped the engine of that rolling piece of crap and stepped out of the cabin. The driver was a young boy, even younger than us, around 16, with short-cut brown hair, unshaven cheeks, bare feet, no clothes on but shorts. Then I looked at that junk: the spotlights were broken, the engine was dripping oil, a rotted seat, a dirty interior full of dust and seeds (because all of the windows and doors on the cabin were open). Also, the guy was sweaty, and a thin layer from the dust of the road covered his whole body.
—What is your problem?—he asked.
—Our car battery is dead. Could you charge us, just to start it?
—Yep, sure,—he said, and climbed back in the cabin for the charging cables.
He clipped one to the tractor’s battery, the other to the car’s. Then he sat back and started the tractor.The starter motor painfully rotated the big engine. At the moment it started, it vomited a great cloud of soot from the rotten exhaust.
I sat back in the car and turned its key. It started immediately. Then he stopped the tractor, and detached the wires from both of the vehicles.
Because of the heat, I was tired, and instead of thanking him, I asked him a question.
—By the way, are you crazy, or who drives this junk around half naked in this heat? Are you nuts?
He looked at me with a bit of disgust on his face, and asked:
—Do you know what work is?
—Yes, I know well. I am 19 years old and I work four hours a day in a fast-food restaurant.
—Do something for me, okay. Next time you eat, think of me.
Then he said nothing more, just sat back in the cabin, and drove off to the distance.
Then we drove back to town; I dropped off my friends and drove home. When I arrived, it was almost dark. I entered the house, but no one was at home; I just found a note. It read:
Me and your father went to Steve’s house, they’re having a party and we just got invited at the last minute! Anyway, we come back tomorrow.
P.S. I made you some sandwiches, they are on the table.
I sat down ’cause I was very hungry, and my mind just clicked in. That sentence the kid had said was stuck in my head. And it was just now that I recognised when I was looking at the sandwich:
—I think I have a hard job, but actually I don’t; because that kid probably wakes up early in the morning and comes home at night, after driving that junk all day, in the heat, in the dust and for what, you ask? To transport the wheat from the fields to the silos, the wheat that is transported to the mill, then to the bakery, where they cook the bread that I can buy by just going to the store, take it off the shelves and walk home with it. And that bread, the wheat, the pasta, and all the baked goods are so easy to obtain, yet, some people have to work very hard under very harsh conditions to make it so easy for us citizens to get our food. They are not stupid farmers or jerks; they are the uncelebrated heroes of every nation, every country, that nobody thinks of.
A teardrop rolled down on my cheek when I was thinking about this, and how I behaved with that poor guy. If I could find a way to apologize to him and give him a blessing for what he is doing, day by day, I wish I could. But now my mind has changed; I will never look at food the way I did before, because now I know how much work is behind this bread I am holding in my hand, the bread that is wet from my tears.