"Hey Kitty, come here! I want to show you something..." Luis, my Colombian co-worker says. I can see out of the corner of my eye that a table just sat down in my section. I have a minute or two to chat.
"What, Luis? What?!" I say excitedly. We are standing by the bread table at Toro.
Luis rolls up his sleeve very quickly to reveal his new tattoo: a tiger's face, freshly etched into his arm, the tendrils of its mane reaching out to merge with a pre-existing tattoo that wraps around his huge bicep. It's awesome, but looks a little...peaked.
"Wow! Did it hurt? I just saw you last week -- did you have that last week when I saw you? When did you get that done???" Luis works 6 days a week, day and night -- when did he find time to get a tattoo?
"I got it done last Sunday night," he tells me. "No, it didn't hurt. But it hurts now. When someone pats me on the arm. Or when my clothes rub against the skin. When I got it done? No, it was nothing."
If you look very closely, you can see tiny flecks of skin peeling around the tiger's whiskers. "Oh, yeah, I see. It is new," I say. "Very nice."
"But the guys at the tattoo parlor said it was very weird," he tells me. "They had to basically go through and do the tattoo twice! The first time they did, there was no color. It was like getting a tattoo that was invisible."
"Huh? Really?" I ask.
"Yes, they said that my skin is very strange, and that the ink didn't come up through it like it usually does with tattoos," he tells me. Luis' English is near perfect but so heavily accented, it sounds musical. Words like 'very' turn into three syllable cadences with long, elegantly trilled r's. "They said it should look more brighter in a month, that I should come back again if it doesn't and they'll fix it."
"Really?" I ask. "That's so weird."
"Yes," he says. "They say my skin, it is very tough."
"Tough, huh?" I say. "Like thick? You have thick skin! Wait a minute, Luis, are you telling me that you have special, especially thick skin?"
"Yes," he says. "Very thick."
"Do you know that phrase....?" I ask, then trail off when I see my table looking around for their waitress. Back to work. I will have to explain the grand irony of this all to him later.
Later tonight, during a precious, quiet moment, I think about Luis and his thick skin. There are so personal attributes that make it make sense: his tireless work ethic; his enduring attitude; his boundless energy for completing the task at hand, whatever it may be, with excellence.
I often puzzle over Luis -- What makes him tick? I wonder. How is he so good at everything he does? How is it possible that he works six days a week, fourteen hours a day and never complains? Not about his tables or his home life or that he's tired. Nothing.
Maybe that's his secret: impenetrably thick skin.