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.

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