Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Are We Smiling (Read to end)

After having worked in Retail Technology for the twenty-one years prior to my retirement in October, I’m now finding myself enjoying volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity. And, to say I’m out of my element is an understatement.

In some respects, both types of work are similar. For example, problem solving skills are necessary in both, and a certain amount of experimentation is involved, as well. The biggest difference is the work with Habitat is largely manual labor.

Today (2/26), there were six of us on the work-site where a new house is being constructed. It’s still in the foundation-phase. We laid re-bar in the trenches made earlier in the week and retrofitted a plumbing mistake.

After the building inspector for the City of Pontotoc approved our work, we set about covering the in-ground plumbing and leveling the dirt, a step necessary prior to pouring the concrete slab next week.

It was in the fill-in phase, that I lamented to my co-laborers, “The reason I went to college was so I wouldn’t have to do manual labor.”

They laughed, and one chided, “But, this gives you an appreciation of the work being done.”

I appreciate it all right, but I’d appreciate it a lot more in a supervisory capacity.

But, because so much of what I help do is uncharted territory for me, I have difficulty balancing job skills and mental skills. Carpenters, masons, dry wall workers, and the like, all have specialized tools for the job. And, as it is often their means of livelihood, they are quite adept in their specialty. Carpenters have tool belts and/or nail aprons which aid them in keeping near at hand the tools and supplies needed to perform a given job.

Soon after I retired, Barbara bought me a leather apron to hold several tools and supplies for carpentry work. Fully stocked, it weighs a ton, so I don’t strap it around my waist unless I’m going to be hammering, measuring, sawing, and the like for extended periods of time.

Even with all the compartments, slots, loops, etc. I’m often undecided about what to put where after using say a pencil or utility knife. There are leather loops on either side for my hammer and a pouch front and center for my tape measure, which means those areas are out of the running for handy places to stow the aforementioned or my leather gloves, gloves that I’m apt to remove to make a phone call and then forget where I put them.

I’m not always consistent in holstering my hammer and several times in recent days, I’ve hung my hammer on top of a form stake to tighten a string or grab a shovel and minutes later be at a loss as to where I left my hammer. Maybe, I’ll get better with keeping up with my “stuff,” but at my age, maybe I won’t.

Today, my camera was the challenge. Barbara thinks I should document our work with pictures, and she likes me to take pictures of individuals and groups at work. Before, I started doing some of the manual labor, making pictures was simple…go to the work-site, make a few pictures and leave. It’s more complex trying to work and make pictures. Thus, she made some pictures with my camera at lunch and right after lunch, but gave it back to me after she finished and was leaving the work-site. I put into an already full pants pocket.

We finished our work and loaded all our tools and supplies to be returned to the warehouse for storage into the “company” truck I had driven from the warehouse to the work-site. I remember removing the camera from my pocket, as I collected my boots, jacket, and tool belt, placing some of these articles in the bed of the truck to make room for a passenger on the front seat.

I parked the truck in the warehouse and transferred my belongings to my truck and drove home. I took my jacket and tool belt and put them in the garage, then, without entering the house, carried my boots around back to hose off the sand and red-clay dirt.

Barbara heard me running water and brought her shoes for me to clean up, too. Afterwards, she asked to see the camera, and I told her it was among the things I dropped off in the carport. She checked the tool belt and my jacket. The camera was not in either.

“I remember it was in my pocket with my cell phone, and I took it out as I was getting in the truck to leave the site. Maybe, it’s still in my pickup,” I suggested.

It wasn’t. I checked the same places Barbara checked, and still the camera was missing. It bothered me that I could not remember what I did with the camera. Maybe, I put in on top of the tool box of the pickup, and it fell off leaving the work-site. Maybe it’s on the front seat of the pickup at the warehouse. Maybe…maybe we should go back to the warehouse and check the truck. We did. It wasn’t there.

Back at home, I was frustrated even more.

“Did we look on the dash of the truck?” I asked.

I thought we might as well rule out the work-site first, so we returned to the site. The shiny object in the ditch near where the truck had been was not the camera. Next, we drove back to the warehouse a second time and looked on the dash of the truck. We also looked at every place I had been in the warehouse when unloading the tools. No camera.

“Like you said earlier, ‘It’ll turn up…or it won’t,’” Barbara remarked as we left the warehouse.

As we walked into the carport, I checked the dryness of the boots I’d left drying on top of the lawnmower, and something inside the toe of the boot caught my eye. It was the shiny metallic surface of my camera. I plunged my hand deep into the boot and retrieved the camera.

“Here it is,” I exclaimed gleefully, not so much for the value of the camera as it’s relatively inexpensive (less than two hundred dollars) or for the pictures it held in memory but for the satisfaction in finding something that was lost.

In trying to remove the sand and clay, I had hosed, scrub-brushed, and banged those boots onto concrete an hour earlier, oblivious to the added weight of the camera inside one of them. Apparently, Sony makes a pretty rugged camera for the price paid.

Finally, I remembered having placed the camera in a boot prior to moving the boots from the floorboard of the pickup to the bed of the truck. Yes, I thought about putting in in my jacket, and I thought about putting in an open pouch of the tool belt, but the boot made sense at the time.

It may be an unlikely conclusion, but perhaps all the manual labor I’ve done recently is contributing to my forgetfulness. I’d like to believe it’s not early onset dementia, or Alzheimer’s Disease. One thing is certain; time will tell. ~ Wayne Carter/ Associate Editor and Publisher/ The Bodock Post

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About Me

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I'm a native of Pontotoc, MS, and graduated Pontotoc High School in 1960. I received a BS degree in Mathematics from The University of Mississippi in 1965. My wife Barbara and I have two children and five grandchildren and one great grandchild. We make our home in Pontotoc.