“I don’t trust anyone.”
I was scheduled to meet with the Philippine Trade Representative in LA to discuss possible business expansions in the Philippines. I was mostly going in blind for this meeting except for a stint of haphazard googling a few hours before our meeting.
Julián, my Uber driver, was a slim and young Hispanic. He was extremely soft spoken, seemed shy, yet he was quick to ask questions about what I was doing. When I told him I was going in without any prep for my meeting, he relayed a story about a college business class he had taken, and how he had (very successfully) winged the final presentation with his friends. “Maybe that’s the best way,” he claimed. “No prep. Wing it. Just dress up.”
Julián glanced over, then politely averted his eyes after fully taking in my outfit. I looked down at my shabby blouse and wrinkled jacket I hadn’t dry cleaned in months. Living in Socal has taken away every iota of my NYC fashion sense. Or at least that’s my story.
“What was your worst presentation?” I asked, to divert attention from my “business outfit.” Julián then told me a story of how he and his same group of friends were supposed to do a book presentation, and they actually spent a lot of time doing the prep. However, when they presented, it turned out they had….read the wrong book.
“We might as well not have prepared anything,” he said. “We shouldn’t have trusted that one guy in our group who told us that was the book we were supposed to present on. I should’ve known.”
“Not to trust him?”
“Not to trust anyone. I don’t trust anyone,” he said.
He hesitated, then said, “My mother brought me up in a rough neighborhood. She was a single mom and way too trusting so people took advantage of her. That’s why I don’t like many people, and I sure as hell don’t trust them.”
I found out that Julián was an artist.
He said he found it funny when artists at galleries stood by their paintings and tried to explain what their work was supposed to mean. To him, the experience belonged to the viewer, and no one else. It brought to mind one of my favorite quotes from Oscar Wilde: Art expresses nothing but itself. Julián had been encouraged by his grandfather to draw when he was a young boy in Mexico, but he said that for him, there was no future in it.
“What do you do now?”
He had worked his way up recently to become a store manager at the Dollar Tree, but had quit, because according to him, they didn’t care about their employees. He asked me for more detail on what I did and was extremely interested in solar, energy efficiency, and smart grid technologies. I gave him my card when he dropped me off. The guy was smart and sensitive, and I thought I could have helped him get a temp job or something.
He never did contact me: He probably didn’t trust me.
About the artists
Fabian Parente, Buenos Aires, Argentina: “I’m an itinerant illustrator and martial artist currently traveling all over Latin America.”
Kayla Younkin is a traditional and scientific illustrator living in NYC. She enjoys creating anything from digitally rendered medical graphics to whimsical watercolors of animals, mermaids, and caricatures.