Thursday, July 04, 2013

“Two Days Off”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Working nights, weekends and holidays means that when time off finally appears on the schedule, it can come at inopportune moments. A recent example of this retail phenomenon came after working through the Father’s Day weekend.
I was scheduled off Monday and Tuesday. Everyone in my circle of friends was already back on the job, and leisure events had passed. But my aging pickup truck needed service. So there was some logic to being given a weekday off to accomplish that task.
I went to a local shop in Chardon that had changed ownership since my last visit. The location was convenient because it allowed me to walk around the corner for breakfast at McDonald’s. Because I work late hours on a regular basis, this meal is one I rarely enjoy.
Thankfully, the new repair crew seemed courteous and professional. They agreed that my truck likely had a problem with the fuel system, probably a rusted line or damaged filter. It was also long overdue for an oil change.
Over the past few weeks, I had actually considered buying a new vehicle. But visits to dealerships in the area squashed that desire. Prices, even for budget vehicles, were astounding. A suitable replacement for my truck was around $30,000, or more. Not something I could afford in an industry where our salaries had remained flat while prices increased.
The shop manager promised to have my vehicle ready later that day. As I walked outside, the air felt cool and comfortable. I shielded my eyes from the light.
It was only 8:30 in the morning!
Frequently, I arrive home from work after midnight. So the early hour was a novelty of sorts. I took the opportunity to enjoy a stroll through the neighborhood. Actually, more of a stiff-leg stumble, with bad knees and the onset of arthritis. But it was undeniably refreshing to be somewhere other than my ‘real job.’
The McDonald’s breakfast rush meant that almost everyone actually inside the eatery was at least 65 years old. In particular, there were lots of old fellows trading stories of youthful endeavors and hospital stays. The man ahead of me in line rested on his cane with the skill of an acrobat. He managed to juggle spare change, a cup of coffee and an Egg McMuffin while laughing at a joke shared by one of his friends.
I felt young to only be in my 50’s.
 After choosing a traditional ‘Big Breakfast’ I found an unoccupied booth by the front windows. Sunshine beamed over my meal, as if it were being blessed by a higher power. It was hard to see in the bright light of morning.
Before eating, I did what any modern American would do... took a photo of the platter with my cell phone and posted it to Facebook.
Then, I felt a twinge of guilt.
Looking around, I realized that none of the oldsters were on mobile devices. They were actually talking... to each other! When I did see a cell phone appear, it was one of the old-style ‘flip phones’ used solely for verbal communication.
Last year, I wrote a faux-country ballad about being the lone owner of an iPhone in a trailer park setting. While eating, I realized that this song could be updated to include being the only person using an iPhone in the senior crowd at Mickey D’s.
But thirty-one years of professional writing meant that I couldn’t let the opportunity to opine and share pass before enjoying breakfast. A photo and a cutline. Then, my meal!
My brother-in-law appeared before I could get through the sausage, hash brown patty and eggs. Typically, he ran late, went directly to the repair shop, then remembered that I was meeting him at the Golden Arches nearby.
But today, his arrival was of a more timely nature.
As I drank coffee, he began to complain about rising gas prices. He observed that the cost of fuel should be back at 29 cents per gallon. He also reckoned that it had been a mistake to close oil refineries in the U.S. while shipping those capabilities to nations in Asia.
I didn’t argue with his command of the facts. Years of experience had taught me to avoid such tricky situations.
By the time I got home, a missed call had appeared on my phone. Somewhere on the way back to Thompson, I had experienced a loss of service. The mechanic on duty confirmed that my truck had a ruptured fuel filter and related damage. Not surprising in view of the vehicle’s age. He said the job would be finished sometime after noon.
I sat in front of the home-office computer and began to write. Then, text messages started to appear on my phone. I made another pot of coffee. And promptly fell asleep in my chair.
It was a productive day. All before my normal time to leave for work.

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