The Art Handler, The Saudi Arabian

When bartending, occasionally I meet interesting people.

I’m just kidding. You’re all interesting, in your own peculiar way.

Last night, because it was a bit slow, I was able to talk with some of my customers. This guy, with his cell phone, sipping at his beer, wearing a brown leather coat, looks interesting. Maybe I’ll strike up a conversation. You from here? I ask. He says, no actually, this is my first time in Des Moines. We get to talking, he tells me his job is to transport works of art around the country. I ask him some questions. Have you ever handled a Warhol, one of my favorite artists? He says, oh yeah, all the time. That’s like bottom of the barrel. I’m almost sick of seeing the soup cans. I say, what artist have you transported that you were impressed with? He says, I don’t know. There’s so many. He says, recently, I held a 7 million dollar painting. He adds, a lot of times, I’ll look at the art, and think, are you kidding me? This is crap, I wouldn’t pay a $100 for it. I ask, where do you take it to? He says, all over. Art museums, private homes. You wouldn’t believe the homes I go into. They’re like showrooms. And I think, most of the time, that these people have so much money, but they’re not happy.

Later on, two guys come in, sit at the bar. They look Middle Eastern. I serve them, then they start talking in a foreign language. I’m half-Lebanese, my mother is 100%, but my family is straight up American. My great grandfather moved when he was a young kid to Iowa from “the old country.” I think he spoke Lebanese, but the rest of the family doesn’t. We know about 40 words that we say, but from talking to other Lebanese people, they’re all BS. I tell them the words, they look at me funny, and say, I don’t know that word.

I go up to them, say, are you speaking Arabic? One of the guys say, yes, we are. I tell him I’m half-Lebanese, I ask him where he’s from, and he says, the eastern part of Saudi Arabia. We get to talking, he describes his hometown. 1,000 years old, people live in homes made of mud and stone to keep them cool inside. I ask him what his hometown is known for, and he tells me seafood. I ask him if he’s sick of seafood, and he says, no way.

The most interesting thing he told me was that his grandmother lives in a home that’s 750 years old. Can you imagine that? That’s incredible. My house was built in the 40’s, I thought that was ancient.

Around 1:30, everyone is gone, I start cleaning up the bar, and think about how lucky I am to have the job I do, to meet people from all over the world, and have conversations that I occasionally learn things from.

Sorry. You can’t do that working in a cubicle.

-Clint Curtis


1 thought on “The Art Handler, The Saudi Arabian

  1. Holly Herbert

    I loved this entry! I have some interesting conversations in my job, but that’s mainly because I’m on the phone to different people all day. One of the more amusing things that happened recently is when I found out a guy who I’d talked to was able to get hundreds of thousands of dollars of charges from his AmEx charge card written off by saying hotel staff had abducted him and his son and made them go on an expensive shopping spree. The guy didn’t tell me that, but he has a very unique name, and I googled him after our conversation and found this out. He had a flair for the dramatic, which is what made me look him up in the first place. Maybe I should ask him to tell me the story the next time he calls in, but then he’d know I googled him.


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