Friday, February 12, 2010

Learning to Lighten Up

When I was seventeen I worked for the Council on Aging.  I worked with a 67 year old and a 76 year old--handymen, riding around the area, doing small repairs for old folks.

We screened doors and porches, we replaced rotting boards in floors.  We fixed plumbing.  We did about everything one can do around the house.

The young guy, Albert, could not say "no" to women.  So when an old woman would ask him to plumb her trailer, he would say, "We would have to take out the wall, and we might not get it back together."

To which the old woman would reply, "Well, then that's what you have to do."

And Marion would grumble under his breath, "He can't tell her 'no.'  He just tells her how hard it would be, and she cares about it getting done, not about how hard it is."

My dad had begun to teach me to lighten up.  Albert and Marion finished the job.

They would drive a nail in two strokes.  I took around twenty strokes, and would have to redo every fifth nail.  Marion would say something like, "I don't think that nail is scared of you, John."

Or Albert would say, "We pay by the nail, not by the stroke."

One day I had enough and snapped back at Marion.  It surprised him.  He apologized.

And I realized how stupid I had been.  It is strange that thickening my hide was accomplished by someone who only showed me how thin my skin had been.

No comments: