Brazilian Shoeshine Guys in NYC

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Information about Brazilian Shoeshine Guys in NYC

Published on July 10, 2016

Author: JohnAKLOWE

Source: slideshare.net

1. Brazilian Shoeshine Guys in New York By John A.K. Lowe (aka Joaozinho) On the lighter side as a break from all of the negative news coming out of Brazil recently, I want to share with you a positive little story that I discussed recently with my friend, Steve Scheibe. Recently, I saw a mention about Lula (President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) having been a Shoeshine boy when he was young before he became a Union leader. What an inspiring story! I never knew Lula personally when I worked in Sao Paulo (I was in a different industry) but I knew some HR colleagues who negotiated with him then, and they admired him. Then, I remembered about the Brazilian shoeshine boys when I was an executive in New York City. In those days, the normal expression was “boys” but most were single Brazilian young men with a few grownups mixed in. Many of them worked in mid-town Manhattan around Grand Central Station. For example, one of them worked at my regular barbershop in a hotel just below Madison Avenue. In those days, I commuted by Metro North train to NYC from our Southport Connecticut home for about ten years as a HR executive, firstly with the RCA Records affiliate of RCA Corporation, and then with prestigious Joseph E. Seagram. I was lucky enough to work in Midtown Manhattan and could walk to my office from the station. In New York, the standard business attire was a 3-piece dark business suit with a white button- down shirt and a rep tie. In the Winter, we wore a heavy-weight wool suit with long Burberry coat with a lining inserted with a scarf and topped off by a stylish hat to counter the bleak cold weather and the winds in the canyons. As a successful mid-level executive, I bought my clothes at Brooks Brothers, etc., and then I advanced to shopping at exclusive Ed Mitchell’s in Westport Connecticut. In addition, we wore black wingtip shoes or heavy brogues which needed to be kept clean and shiny despite the dirty city streets. Most of the Manhattan shoeshine guys came from Governador Valadares in the state of Minas Gerais and spoke no English or just a little. But, they worked hard for long hours, made friends with their customers, and studied hard to improve their English through classes and constant practice. In New York, most of us liked these guys. They were engaging and friendly with lots of questions. The relationship was warm and we got to know them personally. For example, many shoeshine places had a few raised chairs and multiple guys working. We would wait patiently until our own favorite guy was free to pick up on an earlier conversation. We admired their hard-work, made a point of tipping them well, and tried to encourage them. Contrary to the image of tough, rude New Yorkers! At that time, my Portuguese fluency was much better than now. They were so surprised to meet someone in New York who had lived in Brazil and could chat with them in their native Portuguese. I still remembered some Brazilian slang which amused them. And moreover,

2. someone who even knew Minas Gerais. I had visited Belo Horizonte – the state Capital, colonial Ouro Preto, and the Minduri cheese region. This vignette reflects the Brazilian people I knew then. I admired their optimism, courage, and ambitious drive. I wonder where are they now? How are they all doing now? As Steve says, many stories of rags to riches! Note: Steve Scheibe, is a SoCal friend, honorary Mineiro, and colleague in Brazil California Chamber of Commerce (BCCC) colleague.

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