Monday, February 12, 2007

Green... Over There

I knew my Land Rover needed new tires as well as a long-overdue rear brake-job for the vehicle, and I even had four beautifully aggressive Bridgestone Duelers on special order at Sears, but two weeks later… they still had not shown-up. Driving to Albuquerque on Friday, a steel belt broke in my rear passenger-side tire, actually pushing the broken strap’s metal strings through the sidewall. Thus, I spent the majority of my weekend at the tire shop.

The tire swap took three hours on Friday evening, because I had to wait around for them to receive four matching-spec Goodyear tires from their warehouse outside the city limits. Saturday, I returned for a four-and-a-half hour rear brake job that started at seven and ended at eleven-thirty. While I hate waiting for much of anything, I did treasure the idea of a few hours peace to think, read and generally ignore those around me. At five minutes to six that morning, I selected a great book to reread and walked-out the door.

The early morning repair brings out the most interesting human-assembly-line cast-offs. I am able to gather from intermittent cellular calls that the man next to me is a CPA feeling the pinch of the onset of his busiest season. Between distant conversations, he pours over a photocopied binder of updated tax-law; bouncing up and down in his faded blue running suit, he seems annoyed that he has to wait for others to work. The bleached-blond Hispanic woman across from me is more than slightly overweight, but still expensively-dressed. I noticed she drove a rather new Saturn SUV when she pulled-in to the parking lot. I only noticed the vehicle because I had wondered what kind of work a new car would demand. If I saw her out somewhere that would allow only a momentary glance, I wouldn’t assume much about her social standing, but here in this limbo called a waiting area, I simply see a woman reading Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice and I am intrigued. I mention the name “Mr. Darcy” and her face lights-up. She has read the book eleven times, I find it interesting that she’s kept track. A moment later her mobile rings and she is consoling her nine-year-old daughter. It sounds as if the two of them continue to live with parents/grandparents and I wonder what events could have led to such a decision for a woman with expensive clothes, a new car and an interminable fascination with Jane Austin.

I turn again to my book and read from…“The Stars, the Snow, the Fire” by John Haines.

It is strange for me to find him here, so far from where I have been used to seeing him. It seems to me that there should be woodchips and straw on a plank floor, kindling and a pan of ashes by an iron stove. But the room is carpeted, neat and clean, and there is neither woodbox nor stove in the house.

I think back to the onslaught of the internet and the strange manner in which it allows casual connections of long lost friends; the ability to instantly recognize success and dismiss failure in acquaintances from our youth. Tommy has become a lawyer; Vin is a radiologists; Todd is a pharmaceutical research scientist; Hank is a physicist specializing in laser design. Tucker manages a bank; Melissa works as a marine biologist; Chad became a CPA; Craig is an electrical engineer; Jon does something that combines water conservation, engineering and consulting – I’m still not exactly sure what he does but I see from his “MySpace” page that he drives a newer Mercedes. I know of a few others working as professionals in their respective field, but the others… the non-success stories don’t typically make the “google-search” cut.

The woman reading her romantic comedy has left and a small man with pale rough skin is now sitting across from me working intently on a math problem spread over a series of spiral-topped notebooks. I ask him if he is a professor and he laughs. Then in a thick undeniably German accent he states that he works at Los Alamos National Labs. I momentarily wonder if he is allowed to bring his work home. He tells me that he is in town for a high school science fair, where his son is an entrant. He decided to have the car repaired while waiting on the judging. Like father, like son, I suppose. The news continuously tells me that America’s schools are falling behind the rest of the world, yet it seems as if nearly everyone I know is some sort of professional. The heart pulls the body where it needs to go. My parents wanted me to become an architect, instead I chose to paint my little pictures and do my best to change the world without too much interruption to my insatiable desires. As I prepare for yet another move, I wonder how much longer that sense of doing “the right job in the right moment” can last for any of us. I wonder if the grass over the next hill is ever greener than the plot I left behind. – DN

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