Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

Eating Donkey Meat and Maracuyá Juice

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Life | 0 comments

Risking Limb and Life to Get the Appliance Job Done

At thirteen, my mom offered me as labor at my uncle’s appliance store. It was part of an arrangement for not telling her I had come really close to being expelled from school.

Did I say arrangement?

I meant punishment.

During my entire two-month winter break, I would wake up with the roosters, walk a block down to the bus stop, and get a bus called ‘Ruta Seis’ (or Route Six.)

An hour later, the bus would drop me a few blocks from my very first job in Barranquilla’s seedy downtown.

Did I tell you I was thirteen?!?!


Okay. Moving on.

I was surrounded by friendly and funny people working hard in the store. But I didn’t spend much time there. My uncle had a different plan for me.

While my friends slept late, played soccer, or watched TV, I was waking up at the crack of dawn, taking a bus to the store to load up appliances onto a small truck with a tiny pick-up bed to deliver our customers’ new appliances.

I was delivering this merch in the neighborhoods I read about in the newspaper, like La Chinilta, La Luz, Rebolo, and Soledad 2,000. They were on the news daily and not for their art walks, parks, or coffee shops. People were getting stabbed, mugged, and killed in these places.

Thirteen! I was Thirteen!!! Don’t forget!

But, man, did those bad neighborhoods have good food?

A local would set up a tent on the side of the road, put together a makeshift kitchen, and go to town making ‘corrientazos.’ These sold for something between 1,000 and 2,000 pesos or what would’ve been the equivalent then of a dollar or two. Much less than what a Big Mac would go for because Big Macs were actually expensive in Barranquilla and reserved for the spoiled kids in town.

The literal translation of a ‘corrientazo’ is when you stick your finger in an electric outlet, and it passes a ‘corrientazo’ through your body. So, it’s the name for when you are electrocuted.

In this case, it evolved from the word ‘corriente’ or average. It was meant to be an average lunch sold to the working Colombians who needed lunch but didn’t have enough time to go home for lunch and a siesta. A working class I was now part of…. at thirteen!!

The ‘corrientazo; typically had rice with another starch, like plantain or yuca, because Colombians believe in starches as much as they believe in the Catholic church. Then a meat of dubious origin (maybe a horse or a donkey) buried under sautéed tomatoes and onions (likely there to hide the taste of the ‘burro’) and the juice of the day (minimal pulp from a squeezed tropical fruit, a lot of water and a burlap sack of cane sugar.)

My other job duties included spending weekends in the store’s warehouse cleaning dirty fridges, freezers, and stoves.

“Carlos, how did the appliances get dirty?”

Well, I’m so glad you’re interested.

We repoed them from the poor people who fell behind on their payments.

And by we, I don’t mean the abstract and generic we, but the actual, factual, concrete we.

‘We’ was comprised of me and my uncle’s driver and all-around jack of all trades, Alberto.

You heard that right; at the tender age of 13, I was responsible for going into people’s homes and telling them, “Oh, if you like ice, refrigerating dairy, and keeping your meat fresh, then you should’ve paid for your fridge!”

“Here, ma’am. Here are all your perishables. You can leave them in the sun so they can be cooked. Because at 40 Celsius, they will be cooked!”

“Now, I’m going to turn my back to you to carry this heavy appliance out of here. Please don’t stab me. Or, like we like to say in the biz, ‘Don’t shoot the repo-er.’

What qualities did I precociously possess to do this job usually reserved for burly, intimidating men with chest hair?


I wasn’t tall or muscular. But I was, however, thirteen!!!!

I was tall for my age. I was what is scientifically known as almost 5’9″ — a term I still use to this date despite my wife’s insistence to stop and just say I’m 5’8″.

But, Alberto. Oh, Alberto.

Alberto, on the other hand, was even smaller than me. He was 5’4″.

Could he have found a way to get a gun?


Did he?


He did not have a weapon, that’s if you don’t count his wispy mustache, which really inflicted ultimate pain in his love life. So, we were just a couple of ‘goombas’ with no guns, following orders from the man.

How neither of us was ever cussed at, shot, or stabbed is still a mystery to me.

My first job came to an end before I started school. After working for my uncle, I decided to get my life together at school and never again disappoint my mom.

I failed.

But at least I survived to do so.


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