Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Wave

  A woman told me recently that her husband waves at every vehicle he passes. She says it's his way of offering loving kindness. If he did this in New York or Chicago, he'd soon be chased down and dragged from his car. Some people can't stand love.
  But up here where you can go for miles without seeing another vehicle, you can wave away without incident. It's like saying hi to people you meet out on the trail. In the woods you're assuring yourself the other person is not a murderous hermit. It gives you a second to check for that homicidal gleam so you can take evasive action. People don't realize they carry walking sticks not for balance but for self defense.
  On days I feel exuberant, about one in every seven, I too wave at everyone. But it's rare anyone waves back. I've caught them by surprise. They're daydreaming, or texting, or worse. If someone waves at me, such as the above gentleman, I never, ever have time to return his salutation. Once he passes (and it's always a he) I wave my whole arm in my rear view mirror. My wife screams as we head for the ditch. "Who was that?" she says as I return to my own lane. "Don't know," I reply.
  There are psychoanalysis sites on the Internet. I might run down some algorithms to figure out why my failure to respond to a random stranger's wave causes me guilt and shame.
  It's free and anonymous.

A Singular Wave

Monday, April 24, 2017

Senior Worker

  After twenty-two months of retirement, I am back in the workforce. I always figured I'd pick up a part time job if something appealing turned up. A few weeks ago Teresa went to the little transit company in town to get tickets for her dad. They asked her if she wanted to drive bus. No she said, but I might.
  I've had many jobs over my career and most of them had a driving component. Driving is the ultimate freedom for me, no matter where I'm going. The bus company was looking for a back up driver. I was looking for a job that wouldn't tie me down. I was surprised what a rigmarole it was to get into the system. Fortunately my commercial driver's license was still valid from my days on the farm. But I had to get a DOT physical. The man doctor at the clinic was said to be slap-dash while the lady doc was thorough. I booked the man. Call me chauvinistic.
  I also had to provide my driving record for the past five years, $9.00, as well as a drug free urine sample. Oh, I had to pay for the physical myself, $85.  No wonder they have trouble getting drivers.
  I only want to work one day a week at most, but during my training period I was working four days a week. The Roseau Transit Authority has four buses. There are six a.m. runs out to Greenbush and Warroad. The early passengers are disabled people going to their assisted workplaces. During the day there are two buses on call to pick up people and take them around town, to the grocery, to the department store, to the pharmacy, the bank, the hair dresser. These folks rank from the so called dregs up to the well off. What they have in common is a lack of personal transportation. Ridership goes up when the weather is nasty, which is fifty per cent of the year. And the weather is the main topic of conversation with my passengers, though one conversation began "When I was in jail...." A bus driver hears and sees all kinds of things.
  During my training, the regular drivers told me it could get slow during the day and I should bring a book. Well I think I'm going to like getting paid for reading a book. It will be compensation for not getting paid for my book reviews.
  This past week I started driving routes on my own. I have to pick up people in various places around Greenbush, Badger, and Roseau. At first it seemed daunting, but the supervisor is kindly and provides lists and maps of who is where. My fellow drivers are right, it soon becomes routine.
  Next week I'm scheduled for a half day on Wednesday and all day Friday. I feel like I'm providing a moral good for my fellow man, my synapses are getting a tune up. and I have a little extra cash for  trips to the spa.

The Bus Sees All

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Mud Below

  I know spring is here when my friend Steve tells me his truck is stuck. Steve has a 1986 Toyota four wheel drive pickup which he likes to drive around the roads he has cut on his tree farm. In the spring, when the frost goes out, the truck's knobby tires break through the surface and sink into the bottomless mud. It's too late to back out. That just throws more clumps of mud onto the watching trees.
  Last year he used his tractor to pull the truck out and got the tractor stuck too. So this year Steve was determined to get the truck out with his own brains and brawn. He called me in as a consultant. I used to work on the farm of a wild German. This fellow would look out his window and if it was sunny in Berlin he would order us workers to "Run, run!" and we would drive out into the field and promptly get  stuck. We all got very good at extricating our equipment without calling for help, because help was miles away and cell phones had not yet been invented.
  When I arrived on the scene at Steve's, his truck had been sitting for a week. I could see he had cut a bunch of brush and stuck it under the wheels. He said this was how our ancestors got mastodons out of tar pits. We had carried some 2x4s out to the site, a nine minute walk from the house.  Steve used his Handyman jack to raise the rear tires enough to slip the 2x4s under the wheels. As Steve warmed up the engine I said a prayer of release. The tires spun on the planks and clouds of wood smoke billowed out. I love that smell. The 2x4s squirted to the side and chunks of mud began to fly.
  Steve had some concrete blocks in the back of his truck and got the idea to slip a block under the tire. This involved jacking the truck up again and shoveling away enough mud to slip the block into place. Then I jacked the truck up a few more clicks to get the 2x4 between the block and the tire to create a smooth highway for the truck. The chunk of plywood under the jack groaned and creaked and sank further into the mud but we got our plan in place. Steve fired up the truck. I said my prayer and he almost got out. Well let's jack up the other side and repeat. About this time Steve's wife Jackie arrived with refreshments and we took a break. At length we got the other side jacked, blocked and planked. Now it was no problem. Back he went, but he had to keep moving till he reached high ground and the mud flew for fifty feet. Momentum had shifted away from the mud and in favor of Steve. Next year we'll get the job done in half the time because we have a proven method.

Annual ritual

Please release this truck

Pretty doesn't get you out
Let us celebrate!