Month: October 2011

The Bench

The morning sun is beating down across my neck and warming my face. As the fall breeze blows, it is just enough to offset the heat-a perfect compliment. My bench is solid, grounded and supporting my weight effortlessly. Sitting there I realize how intricately connected I am to this bench. It is simple and strong. I made this bench in the same way I have woven the pattern of my life…lovingly over time.

While I wait for my customers I stare at the ground and am fascinated by the movement of life all around me. A worm moves rhythmically through the remnants of mud by my boots-most certainly a leftover from last night’s rain storm. Fueled by one concern, the worm is blissfully ignorant and desires only to get to a comfortable place. Ironically though…is that not what we are all looking for?

I stand up and stretch my legs as I see my first customer of the day approaching my wash bay. Exiting his massive SUV, the gentleman nods his head at me in acknowledgement and steps over close to my bench to allow me to work. He is a regular and knows the routine. Dressed in a suit, his shoes shine in the sun. His priority is his cell phone and he quickly becomes lost in another world of electronic communication as I wash his truck. I am dismissed. I have again become part of the surroundings. Scrubbing the hunk of metal I chuckle to myself. The absurdity of depending on these electronic devices is almost humorous. Almost. My enjoyment is quickly counteracted by the sadness that always creeps in. People have forgotten how to think for themselves. People have forgotten how to live.

Many of my customers have been coming for years. I know their vehicles as well as I know my bench. I work slowly. With great care I remove the accumulated grime and make certain they are pleased with my efforts before leaving the wash bay. I have an ulterior motive…a theory. I am quite certain that the 15 minutes they stand waiting for their car wash is the only time they are still during the day. It’s also why I make them get out of their cars while I wash. Change of scenery…change of thinking. As I send them on their way with a clean vehicle, I hope they have cleaned their mind as well. Often I am saddened at their cold exchange of money for service. I see them as old friends-comfortable, familiar. They see me as a means to an end.

Sometimes I wonder what is required to make people change what they are doing…stop their routine. Look up instead of down. I have also wondered if it is because the idea of stopping or changing may involve the discovery of something different. If there is one thing for certain, people do not like to be uncomfortable…much like the worm. People will maneuver through anything to avoid discomfort and the risk of being wrong. The fear of being wrong is paralyzing. I would know.

I wash cars for a living. I don’t have to-I want to. I have no need for money. I am well educated and have raised two happy, successful children. I have an ex-wife and we are the best of friends. I have travelled the world and been privy to scenery and encounters that many people only dream of. I have a small, clean apartment that is big enough for my cat and I. My hair is long because I like it like that-not because I have to conform to somebody else’s standards. The sun has left it’s weathering effects on my face and arms and is my constant memory of my outdoor adventures. My 60 year old body reveals the ability of a man much younger-and I did not get it through endless hours of pounding gym equipment. My being is the result of living life, and living it thoroughly.

For many years I lived in a trance…much like my customers. Fed by the desire for money and things, I achieved success in the business world at a very young age. I also lost my grip on what was real. Getting hit by a car will make you remember what is real-what is important and what is lasting. I lived despite the odds, and I vowed that because I lived…I needed to really live. I needed to wake up. The saying goes that everything happens for a reason. It is up to us to not only recognize this but do something about it. That became my second chance-my opportunity to examine what I was doing…and what I was doing to other people.

Now when my customers drive in and exit the security of their car I see them look at me. I often sense pity. Ironically, I am feeling the same for them. As they step over to my bench I say a small prayer that they will take these 15 minutes as a gift…just to stop, sit on the bench and feel what is real. Look at the moment they are in and just appreciate it for what it is. Nobody should have to learn the hard way.

Enter Sandman… Please!!

I turned 35 almost one month ago now, and promptly after this event I got sick. I could feel it happening when it started. My throat became inordinately sore in a mere matter of hours and I became convinced that Freddy Krueger had relocated from Elm Street and was dragging his weapons down my esophagus. I had an inkling that night that things were not going to go favorably, however decided to wait 6 days before visiting a doctor. Being a nurse (as with most medical professionals) it is common to wait until the 11th hour before seeking assistance. After a stern reprimand from the doctor on the dangers of a strep infection, 5 days of Penicillin began. At this point, my predicament was further complicated by my asthma exacerbation that occurs with any sort of of nasal/throat secretions. Nothing screams sexy like a purple-faced, sweaty woman violently coughing in fleece pink jogging pants who hasn’t slept for a week.

Five days into Penicillin, things were not looking up and Mr. Krueger was still wreaking havoc. Unable to swallow my own saliva (and scared of another lecture from the doctor), I sought another consultation in which things indeed had not improved. The verdict…10 more days of a new antibiotic and blood work to rule out mono (I have had mono…the prospect of a sequel was not appealing).

If you’re counting along with me, this brings us to approximately 3 weeks of illness and 3 weeks of inability to sleep due to pain and coughing. I am not a pretty picture and am looking more and more like Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. Trip three to the doctor became warranted after I developed a familiar pain in my right lung. I had pleurisy 3 years ago (hey…nobody said this was a “Health Blog”) and the pain from that was excruciating. Outcome…pneumonia and pleurisy with 14 more days of antibiotics and 5 days of steroids.

Which brings me to the pigeon. While waiting for the doctor yesterday, I was sitting in my slovenliness in the far corner of the waiting room coughing and still generally gross looking. Looking out the window to pass the time, I noted a gaggle of pigeons outside walking around the vehicles. As I was staring, I noted an exceptionally fat pigeon approaching the window wearing a red bandana around his neck. I promptly looked down at the floor and felt my face getting warmer as I realized what I had just processed in my head. Is this what I missed out on in high school when I wouldn’t go down to the backwoods at lunchtime for some hallucinogenic fun?

Driving home (which I wondered if I should have been doing) I surmised that it was sleep deprivation. Three weeks of poor sleep (combined with illness and A LOT of drugs) would probably not make for clear, concise processing of information. Therefore, I need to be hopeful that my new drug regimen will help and sleep will come at some point. If the pigeons start riding around on miniature ponies I will keep you posted.

You Can’t Handle The Truth!

Passing through the check out at a department store recently, I was asked the inevitable “Did you find everything you were looking for today?”

Before answering, I gazed at the cashier wondering what she would do if I responded contrary to what she was expecting.  Driving home, I contemplated how many questions are asked simply for the sake of garnering some type of answer?  Furthermore, how many questions are we asking (or are asked of us) that we really do not want the answer to?

In mulling this over, I pondered my own experiences and recognized examples of my involvement in these situations.  Additionally, I identified a spectrum-type aspect to these questions…not all are created equal nor do all require us to become emotionally involved.

Having worked in the retail/customer service/call center industry, I had been witness to (and involved in) many mindless conversations where rhetoric was a requirement of the job.  For example:

“Do you need any socks to go with this dress your purchasing…three pairs for $6.99?”
“Do you have any other vacation needs I can help you with today sir?”

All fine instances of being totally tuned out and anticipating that all responses were going to include an emphatic “NO!”  Perhaps this is why the turnover and burn out rate in this sector is so high.  Spending all day on automatic can really limit one’s ability for actual engagement.

In the middle of the spectrum I believe we may find the slightly more emotionally charged questions that are asked (or may be asked of us).  Again, this includes the concept of asking questions we do not want the answers to with one difference-instead of asking them as a job requirement, we are asking them because our brain has a morbid curiosity.  Here you may find such questions as:

“Do these pants make me look fat?”
“Why would you rather hang out with her than me?”
“How long have you been cheating on me for?”

Scraping the bottom of this category, one may also find the “Don’t you love me anymore?” question that is reserved for only the most desperate of situations.

When considering any concept on a spectrum, we have the end that contains the most intense questions and situations that people can endure.  Humor aside, my job as a nurse allows me to be witness to questions that people ask that there are no answers to.  It has been my experience that questions asked during these critical times fall into two broad categories-people ask the questions but do not want the answers, or people ask the questions already knowing the answers.  With either case, sometimes the struggle is not having any answer.  To have someone ask something of you and not be able to provide them anything in return is the most constricting feeling.

In saying all of this, the bottom line that I have reached is that there is actually very little that we do not know the answers to ourselves.  Many times I think we confuse our need to acquire information for our need to validate what we already know.