Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hard Workers Never Pump Their Own


I couldn't tell you how old I was the day it happened. I only know that I still had a good supporting cast of hormones, but my muscle tone had already started to head down the highway. I was riding my bicycle home from work, and someone was directly behind me in the bike lane for several miles, keeping pace but not passing. When I sheared off to the right, he called out, in tones that still reverberate through the winds of time, "You have a great butt!"--a little item I endeavored to work into my conversations several times over the next few weeks, until finally, in a bid for closure, someone said, "Well, you can't put a price tag on that." Actually, I can. I'd have put it at a good buck-forty-five anyway, and that was before I realized how rare it was. Now, what with demand regularly exceeding supply, and inflation, personal and otherwise, I'd go quite a bit more. There are days I'd empty my wallet for it.

There's got to be a whole untapped market out there. I can't be the only person who would be willing to fork over cold cash to someone who knows just how to make me feel really good, maybe a little tingly. It could be the basis of a whole new profession.

Dave contends it's his job to say things like the fellow on the bicycle did, although he didn't get all prickly about it. He can't. He's got a girlfriend at the gas station. He used to swing by the 76 station on his way home from work because it was the closest. Dave worked very, very hard. He's been known to use a ninety-pound jackhammer over his head for twelve hours in a boiler at 110 degrees. He'd run through a pair of overalls and ten pairs of gloves in a week. He'd come home gashed and sooty. Sometimes he'd just burst into flame. Then he had to cook my dinner and maybe kiss my paper cuts.

The gas station is owned and operated by a Vietnamese family, and the matriarch of the crew is something special. Even I can see that. She's not a young thing; certainly no younger than we are. She has a beautiful daughter who looks very much like her, but it is the older woman who really knows how to handle the hose.

She would lean into the window, tip her head up and smile. Are those flower petals in the air? And ask what Dave wanted today. Is that music I hear? And one day, as Dave was handing over his cash, she stopped and turned Dave's hand over and over, stroking the calloused rind on the palm side and tracing his knuckles with a delicate finger, and breathed, "Ho-aaah. You work haa-aaahd for a living." And removed the cash, and turned her face up to his, all sweetness and cherry blossoms. Eventually Dave got the truck into gear and remembered the way home.

She's not there every time, but as has been demonstrated with rats and pellets, random reward really pulls the lasso tight. What kind of price tag can you hang on that? The 76 station charges twenty cents more per gallon than anyone else for gas, and Dave's been going there for ten years now.

13 comments:

  1. Loved the picture of Dave! Where's the picture of your butt for illustration purposes?
    MA

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  2. Ah, yes. If I had only known then what I know now.

    Great writing, BTW.

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  3. Oh, LUV this one so much. Picture of Dave is so sweet, too.

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  4. That is funny. And so true! What we do for a little bit of feeling appreciated... or even looked at with a little bit of "whoa!" Tingly!

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  5. I've been going to a new Starbucks, out of my way, because one of the baristas flirted with me.
    We will take it where we can get it.

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  6. "You can't put a pricetag on that." is a load of crap.

    We all revel in it. We wouldn't be human if we didn't.

    If I had someone who admired my butt...well...I don't know what I'd do about it but I'd certainly put a pricetag on it.

    I adore Dave's story. What's 20 more cents?

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  7. LOOOVE this post! It's all about the unsolicited approval, isn't it? We expect it from our mates, and at the outset we usually get it. When that tapers off or vanishes altogether, one admiring glance or comment from a stranger can get us through.

    Must share with you the story of my hardware-store cowboy:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3853811

    Sorry I don't know how to post a link. You'd think by now...

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  8. LOVE this post, and it's spot on! I had a guy come up to me on Wellington Street in Ottawa once long ago, and hand me a flower..he said that I had made his day by being pretty!! That single random act of appreciation has helped me through decades of moments of self doubt!!

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  9. Mary Ann: December 12th post. Julie: I am continually humbled by my inability to wrangle a simple blog. In fact, almost every time I comment on my own, it informs me my comment can't be processed. I just hit "post comment" again, and sometimes a third time, and then it gives up and publishes it.

    And I know who every one of you except Leslie is, and I think you're all gorgeous. Stands to reason Leslie is, too!

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  10. I love this one, too! A local BYOB had a pizza maker, a little dumpling of a guy, who was always glad to see me. He called me No Oregano for months, until I finally introduced myself. One birthday, he sent a pizza -- which I hadn't ordered -- over to my table, which he said was "made with love." It was awfully sweet. Then, a few weeks later, he asked for my phone number -- which would've been fine if he hadn't been married. Keep an eye on that gas station lady; she may have heard about Dave's mad saute skills, among other desirable attributes.

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  11. Great awesome post, and the butt cheek award goes to the 3rd paragraph, which I just want to hang up on my wall under a picture of your butt and Dave's gas.

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  12. I love this one, too! A local BYOB had a pizza maker, a little dumpling of a guy, who was always glad to see me. He called me No Oregano for months, until I finally introduced myself. One birthday, he sent a pizza -- which I hadn't ordered -- over to my table, which he said was "made with love." It was awfully sweet. Then, a few weeks later, he asked for my phone number -- which would've been fine if he hadn't been married. Keep an eye on that gas station lady; she may have heard about Dave's mad saute skills, among other desirable attributes.

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