Monday, December 03, 2007
It’s been a very educational week. Here’s some of the things I’ve learned in the last week:
· A lot about RVs. How to change the propane tank on my trailer and how to light the pilot light on the trailer water heater. How to dump the holding tank. I won’t explain that last one but it is very important.
· How to replace a broken thermostat on the tent heaters.
· I learned that Kerosene is stored in blue cans, not red or yellow
· To get hot water with an “on demand” system you have to run hot water in more than one shower stall to “encourage” the system.
· A whole lot of things about spiders: The difference between a black widow spider and a brown widow and a brown recluse. What an egg sac for a brown widow looks like (white with spines sticking out). It’s actually kind of pretty. I learned from the pest control man that the biggest brown widow spider he had ever seen was found in the dining room of our camp. Thankfully I learned this while he was spraying it with poison.
· A lot about propane ovens. While learning how to light the pilot light on a propane oven, the repair man actually told me I should find a man to do it for me. It was sort of funny to him that a woman wanted to do this herself.
· I gained renewed respect for tradesmen like those guys who clearly thought propane and bugs are the most interesting thing in the world. It’s refreshing to see someone love their job, especially when it’s not a very glorious one.
· I’ve learned a little about blackberry phones, not the fruit. I still probably know more about the fruit than the phone at this stage. But I do enjoy carrying my whole office in my pocket. This one even has the new map feature called “my location” and it really works.
· I learned a lot about Americorps—more than I can tell you here. Look them up on the internet. It’s a great program every person 18-24 should consider, kind of the domestic Peace Corps, fashioned after the Civilian Conservation Corps from the depression years. We'll be hosting a group of 12 Americorps volunteers the rest of my stay here at Gautier. They've got a bunch of houses to work on for the next three months.
· One interesting thing I learned about Americorps is that the US Government owns the van these kids drive all over America and our government doesn’t have the same age restrictions the car rental places have. On one mission trip last year our church had a 22 year-old airline pilot who could fly a commercial airplane but couldn’t drive the rented van. But the US Governmentt will let an 18 year old drive their van anywhere, anytime.
Yesterday when I was standing in line at Wal-Mart I overheard a conversation between the checker and another customer about their FEMA trailers. The conversation started with a comment about formaldehyde that had been found in the trailers. The checker had been to the doctor twice from exposure to the chemical. But the lady behind me in line was overjoyed with her news, "They came and got my trailer yesterday!" The lady had moved into a FEMA cottage. They are bigger but still not permanent housing. This didn't dampen her excitement:" My sanity has been restored! We have running room now!" I looked at the grandchild she had in the cart and understood. I've been living in a trailer for a week now and I simply can't imagine being in it for two solid years, especially with a child. She said the new cottage has two bedrooms and is 50ft long. But when I asked Mical about them he said they're flimsy and very narrow. Then he held both arms out and said they're only this wide.But that didn't seem to matter to the Wal-Mart lady. She has "running room." They get to keep this cottage until 2009 or they get their homes rebuilt.
But here’s my favorite thing I’ve gleaned from my week: One of the most honest places I’ve found on the face of the planet certainly isn’t a church sanctuary, goodness no, but a Waffle House Restaurant.
I have always enjoyed a meal at any Waffle House I go to. I love their food. I love to watch them cook. A fine ballet is a faint second to the performance of a good short order cook. These people can keep seven orders going at once in their head and on the grill. I always try to sit at the counter so I can be close to the action. And I love being around the customers who frequent them. They are invariably honest people with no pretense. People with old scars and fresh wounds. They don't have the time or money to spend on fancy things. So, Monday I treated myself to lunch. Even though it was lunchtime I always get pretty much the same thing: eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast. And, of course, coffee.
I noticed what great coffee cups they always have at Waffle House. They’re good solid thick white, no nonsense cups. Honest cups. I could tell the one I had was brand new because it was still shiny. It probably hadn’t been through the dishwasher but a few times if at all. I fell in love with the cup.
At the end of the meal the waitress brought me the check and I motioned her close, “Is there any way I could buy this cup?” She looked to her left, right and behind then leaned toward me and said they don’t sell the cups but she could give me one of the ones they have that is chipped and ready to be thrown away. But I really wanted a nice cup, a shiny new one just like the one I was drinking from and, I told her I was quite willing to pay for it. She looked around again and this is when I noticed a small man with a wimpy mustache scurrying around behind her. She told me that as long as her manager didn’t see me I could just have that one.
So I did the most honest thing I could do in the situation. I broke the eight commandment and stole the cup. Yes, just walked right out of the restaurant when the manager wasn’t looking. After leaving a big tip, of course. I like to keep things honest.