Monday, February 26, 2007

A Crank is Born

One summer in college I delivered mail. It was a great job: I had a four-minute commute, lost 22 pounds, got a (relative) tan, made friends with some, umm, edgy fellers, and could walk off a hangover by lunchtime every day.

The one dark spot I can remember came near the end of the summer, when I found, with a few legs of my route left, that I had a flat tire. Cut off from HQ, with time running out, I carried extra weight extra distance on foot, dropping behind schedule with every step, and came to the final block of my route dripping sweat, with my shoulder aching and the last offer of lemonade far in the past.

Three houses from the end of the last leg, standing at the foot of his driveway, was Bitterman McGurk, the oldest, curmudgeonliest, Social-Security-check-awaitinest WWII vet in town, whose gift for sarcasm was undiminished by the years and whose afternoon had been spent standing at the end of his driveway getting himself enraged. By the time I got there he was so worked up that his pulse was up to forty and his BP was practically detectable. And his rhetorical question was layered with so much contemptuous nuance, so polished and rehearsed, that you could tell he had been working on it all afternoon – nay, probably far longer, with early drafts unleashed on mailmen before me – and that he almost didn’t want to let it go, he had come to love it so much. But he had a job to do, and as I approached with a sympathy-seeking roll of the eyes and a theatrical wiping of the brow, he let me have it.

“What happened? Did your pony die?”

This morning, I was that man. It snowed about five inches last night. At 5:15 I was up shoveling the driveway and scraping the car, which went well. At 6:25 I headed out.

I reached the foot of my driveway to find that the main street had not been plowed in hours. Turning toward the ferry, I discovered that this secondary street had not been plowed at all. An outrage! A travesty! We never got such bad service in the last place we lived! I demanded satisfaction!

Even as I fishtailed my way along, I saw a plow heave into sight behind me, but with blade raised at a jaunty angle, well above the snow! On to more important plowing tasks, I suppose!

I have all day to hone my sarcastic comment, so I’ll probably get some work in on that. There are two problems, though: 1) the roads will be plowed when I get home, which will take a little of the sheen off my angry wit and 2) if I stand at the foot of the driveway to deliver my final polished gem, I’m gonna get blasted with a 30-mph face-full of snow and mud.

Guess I’ll leave the fist-shaking ire to the pros.

No comments: