Harvest Time

Part 5

After I last wrote it looked like Martti would have to move out to be closer to a job he had lined up in Cumming. It made me sad to think of him going off without the other two guys, plus I figured I would have to lower the rent again. He had arranged the job through an Estonian that lives here and involved digging swimming pools with a Hispanic work crew. With no transportation and not even a driver’s license he was going to try to move in with this guy. But the guy wanted $650 a month for rent which is more than I’m charging the three of them. He went back to Kroger and said that a “Help Wanted – Produce” sign was out. He asked “What does that mean, ‘produce’?” It is a strange word that we’ve chosen to mean fresh fruits and vegetables.


The big Kroger never did hire him. After I told him I couldn’t have him do any more yard work Susan said she could use him for a day, so I took him over to her house to work six hours on Saturday. She said they were talking about how things were going and he said he didn’t have any regrets. If nothing else he has learned from this experience that he needs to work hard in school so that he doesn’t have to ever sell books for a living. Also he got to talk to a lot of different kinds of people that he never would have met otherwise. On Monday he asked if he could work for free on my yard just so that he would stay in the habit of doing work. I told him I would give him $15 to mow the lawn but he never did.

On Tuesday when I came home there were Martti and Arni sitting on the couch enjoying the big screen by watching Deer Hunter which they had rented from the Johnson Ferry Blockbuster. I was wondering what Arni was up to now that he couldn’t very well come home during the day to watch TV anymore and now that mystery is solved. Once again he asked that I not let Madis know about this. I was just glad that Arni and Martti were getting along.

At some point Martti decided he should get a driver’s license. I think it is so he can help drive when they start delivering books, which should start soon. This became a big ordeal. He went to the DMV and got a study book and asked me questions about some of the stuff in there. I tried to think back when I took the test and point out some things he would be asked, but the license rules have changed a lot since I took the test. I remember when I got a Thai driver’s license I took two Thai co-workers with me to “translate” the test but they really wound up giving me all the answers. It was a hard test with questions like what is a safe following distance at 70 kph. I didn’t know any of it. So I have some real respect that Martti was trying it on his own. The rules are if you fail the first time you can come back the next day and take it again. If you fail that one you have to wait a week. Then you have to wait a month if you fail again. There are 20 questions on rules of the road, and 20 on signs and you can miss up to five on each section. Martti missed 5 on rules of the road but nailed every one of the signs.

To take the driving test for the regular license he wanted to borrow my car but he had hardly ever driven before and never in a car with a stick. I was ready to let him learn some but Arni let him practice in the van. He was supposed to get 40 hours of practice before getting a regular permit, but that would take too long so they just pretended they drove that much. I’m not real sure that the 40 hours applies to people over 18 anyway. Plus you are supposed to practice with someone over 21. Arni is still 20 but he will turn 21 on October 6. His Estonian ID card uses the European date format so it says 6-10-83 which any sane person would interpret as June 10. So he can pass for 21 easily. No such luck for Martti who was born on something like March 24.

They practiced driving for a couple of days. Arni asked if he could borrow my car to show Martti how to drive a stick. I said that I could show Martti how to drive a stick if he wanted to learn. Arni said really he just missed his car back home which was manual and he wanted to drive a car with a real transmission instead of the van. I told him I didn’t want him driving my car because he drove it faster than it had ever been driven before.

Yesterday they went back to DMV and were told you had to have an appointment to take a driving test. There were no appointments available until October, well after the time they would be returning to Estonia. Part of the deal with all of this is that it is difficult to get an Estonian driver’s license because you have to take expensive driver’s ed courses as a prerequisite. But if you already have a license from another country then they waive that requirement. So spending $20 on licenses in the US saves them hundreds in Estonia. They definitely wanted to get a license even if they had to go out of their way to get it. They asked where else they could go in Georgia to get an appointment this week. When I got up this morning Martti said they were going on a drive to take the test. I asked where they were going and he said Tifton. I’ve made that drive a lot for work so I told him it was a 3-hour drive. Youch! But when I got home from work he was able show off his new driver’s license (and Arni had made the drive in a little over two hours). I think that’s amazing they can even qualify to get licenses. Even though their visas expire in a few weeks Martti now has a license good until 2008. And Arni was able to transfer his Idaho driver’s license from last year to Georgia so he got one too.

Meanwhile the books have arrived. Today a delivery truck showed up and off loaded a palette of books in different size boxes. They said this palette was just the books that Madis has sold and Arni’s palette would be coming later. Honestly it looked kind of small to me. It was stacked 3 or 4 feet high on a standard palette. That’s a whole summer of 14-hour days going door to door sitting in the garage. Still, this is where the payoff really starts. They’ve collected half of the money from their customers so far which they used to pay the company for the books. Upon delivery they get the other half from their customers which they will keep.

Also Martti finally did get a job at Kroger, but it is the small one in Decatur and as a bag boy, not in produce. He told me they said he had to get some khakis for the job. He asked me what khakis are and wound up riding his bike to South Dekalb Mall to get a pair. He took a drug test on Tuesday (cotton swab in the mouth) and starts tomorrow morning at 9. They want him to start working Monday thru Friday full time during the day so he could still do yard work on weekends. But somehow I think he won’t be doing anymore yard work.

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7 thoughts on “Harvest Time

  1. This series of postings is amazing. Brilliant writing.

    re: “His Estonian ID card uses the European date format so it says 6-10-83 which any sane person would interpret as June 10. So he can pass for 21 easily.” I was cracking up at work when I got to this line. It was late at night, and I was the only one in the department, so it raised no suspicion.

    I did not understand the following sentences because why could Arni not come home any more? And when did who stop getting along? I feel like I missed something in a previous posting.

    “I was wondering what Arni was up to now that he couldn’t very well come home anymore and now that mystery is solved. Once again he asked that I not let Madis know about this. I was just glad that they were getting along.”

  2. I did leave some stuff out. Once Martti quit he was staying home during the day unless he was out looking for a job. Arni had been coming home almost every day during the day and watching TV but not telling the other guys. I don’t think he realized I knew but I could tell because he would always leave the remote in TV mode which I never use since SAT mode can turn the TV on and off and change the volume. And more than once I came home during the day and there he was watching TV or on the computer. Since he didn’t want the other guys to know, I figured he would stop coming home during the day since Martti could be there.

    One night I was showing Martti my Baja vacation DVD when Arni and Madis came home. Arnie was very short in telling Martti to stop watching TV. But since Martti wasn’t working for the book cult anymore and since I had asked him to watch this, he just sat there. I told Arnie it was okay for Martti to watch. Then Arni spoke some Estonian telling Martti to stop watching (sounding pretty similar to how I would tell Katie to stop licking my face; I think he even snapped his fingers) and I pretty much put my foot down and said I didn’t see why it was a problem for Marty to watch the rest of my vacation DVD (especially since the day before I had spent just as long showing Arnie all my pictures from the trip). Arni wasn’t happy but gave in. Later he said he was just trying to keep Madis focused and I said “Well, you’re not one to talk.” So I thought there was some friction there not just between Arni and me but Martti and Arni. Really I think Arni is the one that has a hard time staying motivated, not Madis. And knowing that Martti is home watching TV takes away some of his motivation which was faltering already. Maybe I’ll rewrite some of that to make it clearer.

  3. I was over at Mom’s yesterday for KEC’s birthday lunch. She read this entire posting while KEC was practicing calligraphy and I was replacing the mosquito-infested birdbath water. She easily read between the lines and pretty much figured out what your addendum clarified. Mothers are very intuitive. Her conclusion from reading all of these postings is that you would make a great father! (Maybe just a good big American brother.)

  4. I’m glad those guys are leaving. I suggest you come home from work early on the day they leave. Maybe you don’t think you have anything valuable but it might have value in Estonia.

  5. I’m not exactly sure, but I helped Martti look up bus and air fares to New York for October 3 (the plane is $30 more expensive and gets there 22 hours faster; he’s debating which he will choose).

    I think everyone’s comments are a key part of this series. I have a friend that writes for the Wall Street Journal and I’m going to tell him about the book company and the Estonians in case he wants to write an article. I think it would be a great piece.

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