The Metro slows and comes to a stop. The electric bells chime and the matter-of-fact announcer says, "Doors opening." DING-dong , go the chimes again. I step out, relishing the 75° morning temperatures. I head down the platform and walk the trek to the store. As I round the bend, I have to stop because I am in utter shock: about 40-50 men are milling around in The Home Depot parking lot, sunning themselves while sitting on the curb and chatting amongst one another. I am stuck by the fact that a day laborer is something I have not seen in many, many months, particularly in Prince Willliam County. I had often wondered where many, if not most, of the day laborers had gone if they fled PWC. I guess I had found them.
I nodded to one gentleman and said buenas to another. I approached a foursome. Speaking spanish, I chatted with a laborer who said that many of them had been waiting for work since five or six in the morning. It was eight-ish or so when I arrived and asked if there had been any one to pick them up. They shook their heads no, there hadn't been too many people this morning. I thanked them for their time and left.
I took some pictures of the laborers milling around. I was a little nervous about getting close to them with a camera, so I took the shots from across the parking lot:
I returned in the afternoon. While the number of laborers was less than what it was in the morning, there were about 20 or so guys. I conversed with a couple fellows who were taking refuge from the sun in the shade. I told them that I thought there would be no one here because it was the afternoon; naturally, wouldn't someone have picked them up? This laborer said no, today had been a little slow. I chatted some more with the guys until I realized that I was no longer speaking to just two men. The other laborers had noticed there was someone talking to them and perhaps they thought I was a contractor. I paused for a second and saw that I was speaking to about 20 men. I got slightly nervous but figured as long as they didn't make any sudden or threatening motions towards me, I would be fine.
I asked them where they lived. They were from the D.C. area, they said. I told them about Prince William County and the Law of Resolution. They chuckled; it didn't look like they would try to go there. They seemed fine to try and earn a living while waiting in The Home Depot parking lot. It was a little hot that afternoon, and I asked them if they had enough water while they were standing outside during the day. Nearly all shook their heads in unison. "No agua, no baño," one said. "No food," offered another. I asked them how long they had been standing there. "Doce (12) horas," someone told me. I saw that the laborers were looking at me in a sort of eager, anticipating expression. "I didn't bring my car," I told them in Spanish. Nope, I was not there to hire them. I was looking for work myself! Nevertheless, they were interested in this person who had stopped to talk with them.
I talked with the laborers for a little while longer, then I bid them good-bye. I said that if I hopefully got the job at that Home Depot I would see them again. I thought I could hear one of them ask me what my name was, but the words were lost in their own good-byes. I stopped for a moment. He asked again.
"¿Cómo te llamas?"
I gave them my nickname.