A milkman who delivers the old-fashioned way
The signs of acknowledgment multiply as he makes his way around the island – a smile here, a “How ya doing?” there, a wave from across the street.
Granted, it’s hard to ignore a man who drives a truck painted to look like a cow and whose horn moos instead of honks. Still, as a driver for Munroe Dairy – and the dairy, juice and milkman for Jamestown – Arredondo is appreciated not for his custom ride, but for his friendliness, professionalism and hard work.
“It’s a fine job. You meet a lot of people,” said Arredondo, who lives in Riverside, a mere five-minute ride from Munroe Dairy’s headquarters in East Providence. “Even when I visit Jamestown in the summer with my family, everybody speaks to me. It’s a nice island.”
Arredondo joined Munroe Dairy seven years ago; back then, he worked on the loading dock and took part in the juice-making process. He became a driver four years ago, just as his life took a joyous turn.
“I found out I was going to be a father and I decided I needed to make more money,” he said. For the most part, he said, the move has been decidedly positive.
“I am my own boss. The driver is responsible for everything,” he said, adding that his responsibilities include lots of paperwork, ordering products for each delivery day and building his customer base. “The customers have to be happy and I always try to get more customers.”
Just don’t ask Arredondo about the hours – or about driving Narragansett Avenue in the summer.
Averaging five hours of sleep a night, Arredondo typically works 15- to 16-hour days, leaving his home at 2:30 a.m. so that he can load up his “supermarket on wheels” and leave the dairy by 3:30 a.m. His Jamestown route is made up of 60 stops and he also handles routes in Warwick, West Warwick and West Greenwich.
“It took time to get used to,” he said. “The first few months were the toughest.” Even on his days off, Arredondo wakes up according to his work schedule.
“Everybody is sleeping and I’m awake,” he said. “My wife tells me to go back to bed.”
As for Narragansett Avenue in full summertime bustle, Arredondo figuratively throws up his hands.
“That can be stressful,” he said. “There are cars everywhere, nowhere to park. I don’t know what to do.”
The long days also mean less time to spend with his wife and four-year-old son. But despite the adjustments, Arredondo couldn’t think of a better place to work. Munroe Dairy, he said, is “a small company, owned by a small family who all like each other. The owner always helps any way he can. As long as you do your job, everything is okay.”
Being his own boss seemed a long way off in 1999, when Arredondo moved to the U.S. from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. After a short stay in North Carolina, he moved to Rhode Island, where his landlord at the time, a former Munroe Dairy employee, got him an interview with the company’s owner. The owner liked Arredondo and offered him a full-time driving position. But Arredondo turned the job down.
“At the time, I wasn’t interested in full-time employment. I was young. I wasn’t thinking about working, I wanted my sleep,” he said.
While work would soon take on more importance, learning a new language was something Arredondo couldn’t put off.
“When I came here, I didn’t speak any English. I could only say ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye,” he said. “It is hard. When I get nervous, I can’t even speak.”
Now, he speaks English fluently and continues to learn. “Everyday I learn a new word. I always try to use a new word, as many as I can,” he said.
The most difficult linguistic challenge for Arredondo has not been conversation, but humor. The nuances of the English language and American culture are harder to master, and jokes are still something of a mystery to him.
But his wife helps.
“She tells me if it’s funny or not,” he said.
Arredondo delivers many of Munroe Dairy’s 150 products to Jamestown residents on Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information on the company’s products, placing an order or delivery fees, visit the company’s website at www.cowtruck.com.