Rooming with Arthur

26 05 2012

Nearing the 90-day mark of my Grand Canyon tenure and things are going quite well. I have been promoted at my job, met a great group of friends and moved out of Victor Hall.

I had almost forgotten what success felt like.

The cold and unfriendliess that I encountered when I first moved here has melted away with the winter snow. I think a lot of that frosty attitude comes from the fact that so many people don’t make it through the first week.

As my roommate Arthur attested, “I’ve seen people pack up after the first couple hours.”

Arthur was leery of me at first. A Vietnam veteran, Arthur fit the classic description of one of those cranky, crusty old white guys. The kind of guy that Clint Eastwood captured magnificently in Gran Torino. He is also an avid surfer and semi-practicing Mormon. It had been suggested by the folks at housing, that Arthur would make a good roommate, not because of any shared ideals or interests, but because the other people with no roommates looked like, “serial killers.”

So they placed me with Arthur, Victor Hall’s own brooding Clint Eastwood, and we got along just fine. Arthur worked the early shift at the El Tovar dining room as a waiter. By the time he got off, I was just starting my gig at the gift shop. We were like ships in the night. A perfect deal. And neither of us had to worry about the other getting drunk and doing something stupid.

Arthur has been working the National Park circuit for some time, with stops at Yellowstone, Death Valley and Zion just to name a few. Recently, he settled into a routine where he works Grand Canyon in the winter and transfers to Crater Lake, Oregon for the summer.

“This place is way too busy in the summer for me,” he said of Grand Canyon.

Sometimes we would have philiosophical discussions about culture and world events and he would usually make a crack about my higher learning.

“I’m not college edumacated,” he’d say.

Arthur is in good shape for a man well into his 60s and he took full advantage of living in the parks. He was also a great resource for hiking and day trips. But he did have his prejudices. He didn’t care too much for all of the international workers in the park.

“Unemployment on the Navajo reservation is 14 percent and they’re bringing in these Flips and Thais,” he said. “And most of them can’t even speak English.”

In the hospitality industry, the employment of international workers on J1 Visas has become quite the norm, although during a time of high unemployment among Americans the practice of bringing in foreign labor doesn’t come without criticism. I experienced the same situation back in Panama City Beach during my futile attempts at finding work. There were times, especially when applying for resort jobs, that it felt as if being an American was a liability.

Conversely, for as many Americans whining about losing jobs to internationals, there are those who quit before their first paycheck. Maybe that’s the reason for the importing of labor. Once they’re here they have no where to go and they must fulfill their contract.

Once the locals realized I was going to stick it out, conversations were easier to strike up and people began to smile.

Before Arthur left for Oregon, he bestowed a rare complement on me, “You’ve been a good roommate,” he said.

But he also offered some parting advice about Victor Hall.

“Watch your back,” he said. “Even when you’re in the shower … because nobody here is your friend.”

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One response

27 05 2012
David Altermatt

Sounds like Arthur was a very interesting cheracture. Great picture.

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