A 22-hour workday
New York, once the largest city in the world, is now only the ninth or tenth largest. Of its over seven million people, 52 per cent are white, 24 per cent black, 20 per cent Hispanic, and 4 per cent “other”. As a Korean immigrant, Lee Chang-Soon is one of the “others”.
Together with his wife and his mother-in-law, Mr Lee runs a fruit and vegetable store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. His workday starts at midnight when he drives his truck to the fruit and vegetable market in the Bronx. It ends at 10 p. m. when he locks the door of his store and goes home with his wife.
Here’s part of our reporter’s conversation with Lee Chang-Soon:
Reporter: Mr Lee, you’re at work when the rest of us are sleeping, and you’re still working when we’re watching TV in the evening.
Mr Lee: Yes, in our kind of business you have to work long hours. I spend five hours at the market every night, and
the store’s open from 8 a. m. to 10 p. m. People here want a wide choice of fruit and vegetables; everything must be fresh and clean – and cheap!
Reporter: Your wife’s cleaning lettuce right now and you’re sorting green peas…
Mr Lee: Yes. We have to be very quick. There are 15 boxes of strawberries and a lot of asparagus and cauliflower waiting. There’s always work to do.
Reporter: When do you sleep?
Mr Lee: Well, when I get back from the market – at about six o’clock in the morning – my wife and I first unload and store everything. That takes us about two hours. After that I sleep for an hour or so. And I get a bit of sleep in the evening after work…
Reporter: … before you leave for the market again at midnight. Life’s pretty hard for you and your family, Mr Lee.
Mr Lee: Yes – but that’s the way it is. We want to get on. We’re not complaining…