Day 331 - John

Day 331 - John (3rd person I approached)
November 27, 2014 - It had to happen. I’ve had a houseguest staying with me for the last few days, until this morning. I was out this afternoon and met John and we chatted. I came home, had dinner and played catch-up with some trash television. Then I fell asleep on the couch. Waking up at 1:30 am, remembering that you’re still going to write a story before getting into bed, is a unique experience to say the least. Thank goodness for headphones and some loud music.


I saw John having something to eat at a deli I frequent. After explaining to him what type of things I would want to talk about, John was happy to chat. His only consideration was that he had to be mindful of time, due to where he had parked his car. 


John was born in Baja, a city dating back to the early twelfth century, located in southern Hungary. When he was just four years old, John’s parents left communist Hungary, heading to Austria in order to escape.

“We had a fully furnished apartment in Baja. My parents had to leave everything behind, or the neighbours would know something was going on. My father had a motorcycle with a sidecar, and I remember riding in the sidecar with my sister as we drove to Austria. That’s one of my first memories,” he said. They left Baja under cover of darkness. 


“We spent three months in Austria, before leaving for Canada,” John told me. “My parents wanted to go to South Africa at first, but the others staying where we were, convinced them not too. The third choice after Australia and New Zealand was Canada. They decided on Vancouver because Toronto was too cold,” he said.

“I know my father tried to sell his motorcycle in Austria, so we could have more money to leave with. He couldn’t find a buyer for the motorcycle. I remember watching him push it into some bushes and just leaving it there. It was so sad to see that. Looking back, we could have had that money. As it was, my parents arrived in Canada with twenty dollars,” he said. 


“My father was a supervisor at a factory in Hungary, and my mother worked in a hospital. When they got to Canada, my father became a commercial painter,” said John. At the age of six, John’s father signed him up to play soccer.

“My team won a tournament the next year. I scored the winning goal in the championship final,” he said proudly. When John was fourteen years old, his father took him to work for a day.

“My father suggested I help him out with some painting. I did it for a day, and hated painting after that. It was hard work, and I told my father I never wanted to paint again,” he said. 


In Grade two at elementary school, John’s teacher wanted to fail him and have John repeat the grade.

“We spoke Hungarian at home, not English. My parents had gone to night school to learn English, but didn’t know enough people to practise speaking English with. The teacher said my language skills weren’t strong enough,” he told me. John went to summer school that year to improve his language skills and aced all the tests.

“My parents went back to the school and told the teacher that they needed to let me move into Grade three. After seeing my test results, they agreed,” said John. 


During his high-school years, John skipped out of school a lot.

“I missed so many classes, I wasn’t going to be able to graduate. I went into an Adult Education program and managed to get my graduate diploma when I was twenty,” he told me.

“My first job was at McDonalds, but I soon managed to screw that up. I put barbecue sauce on too many Big Mac’s and that was that,” he said, seeming relieved.

“I went to work for my Dad painting. He suggested I give it another try. It turned out to be okay. I worked with him for a while before deciding that I should go and work for another company. I got another job, but after a while I realized that I didn’t really like some of the people I had to work with. So I went back to work with my father again,” he said, smiling. John also took the time to become a certified professional commercial painter, getting his Red Seal certification from the Industry Training Authority. (*Fact Check - see link below.)


“My girlfriend at the time, suggested a government program to get my own business started. I went for a number of interviews to find out if I qualified for the program. The government gave you money every month for the first year of the program, as long as you started your own business within that time. I went to Douglas College for two months and took a course about how to start your own business,” he said.

“After that, I started my own company, Vancouver Painting Limited, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I started by placing ads on Craigslist. I figured my second year would be a tough one, but the customers I had done work for in my first year were sending me referrals,” he said.


John is now dating a woman he met who was born in Croatia but like John, she grew up here in Vancouver.

“We’ve been together for three years now. I’m heading over to see her after this,” he says, referring to the food he’s eating. I ask him if his company is successful.

“Yeah, it is,” he tells me.

“It’s not always so busy, but there have been times when I’ve been able to take on another painter or two. And even though my father told me to never be a painter, I really like what I’m doing. I love painting now,” he said, with a big grin. #notastranger

*Fact Check -