Tuesday, February 08, 2011
The hopeful worthiness of the long-distance runner
As the only white guy in an all-black maintenance crew at the old Prince Hotel, Toronto, I didn't know what to expect.
Me the only Hunky around?
Jesus. I was the token?
How life turns around.
I had decided to take a job working with my hands for therapy. I was separating from my wife, had a girlfriend, tried to hold onto the kids over weekends, and was trying to hang onto my sanity by making spare keys and fixing TV's.
Yet the madness would not abate.
There were these strange dreams at night of Egyptian corridors leading to somewhere down there in the Styx. I would wake up worried, convinced for sure that my life was going down into the sewer of the Universe.
I was working with Island folk, though not Jamaican--Grenada, Aruba and the like. Seems they had never met a more inept man as a maintenance type. "What a guy", they would laugh when I didn't have the sense of applying the bit of an electric Philips screwdriver at an angle first in order to gain purchase and drive the screw home. "We'll call you "challenged Ivan."
But it was good-natured ribbing not the kind you get from
some white hicks from the sticks who become foremen and make life miserable for everybody. We were all in the same boat, we needed to float, and there seemed no tension at all between anybody. At first fearful, I realized that I had nothing to fear. I was becoming at the very least a token Guyanese, even if I thought a Makita power tool was an old Russian Communist.
But they did wonder what was wrong with me, so I told them.
Don Juan had had his comeuppance. F*cking around.
And what was good for the gander was now good for the goose.
She may well be singing an old Carolina song of her own: "Nothing could be finer than to shack up with a (...miner?) in the m-o-o-r-n-ing..."
I wanted to kill that bastard, headlight and all.
But Goosy Gander too, had been something of a black swan. Hooka tooka, soda cracker. Jeff Bridges in the making. Too much too fast. Noveau riche excesses. Doing a Spitzer before that well-known governor. Doesn't everybody?
But it seems marital separation was pretty average, it seems, with the Island People. "Don't kill the miner....Give here everything. Give her money. Give her everything you got. You were at fault."
I got to be better at setting screws. I learned how to work live on outlets and switches without turning off the main power. "You only live once!" they had cheerfully told me. No one died.
And by the time I left the crew, they seemed happy with my progress.
"I think he's going to make it now. He's going to be like us. Watch his smoke.
"He's gonna be a long distance runner."