Monday, February 15, 2010

New Clutch

Everything came together just in time today. Rides materialized to get me from the mechanics’ shop to my customer’s house and then back late in the afternoon. I had a chance to speak with people I had met in the past, but with whom I had never had conversations. Though the problem with my car was expensive to fix, thanks to the efficient people at Premium Imports, my worn out old clutch was replaced, a new headlight installed and windshield wipers were changed by the end of the day. I had hoped the gear problem was a matter of topping off some fluid, but it was much more serious than that.

It has been a painful struggle to shift into first gear for the last couple of weeks. My right arm and shoulder were suffering from the battle with the stick shift every day. This morning I could not get the car into reverse. After several tries with that awful screaming of abused metal I jammed it into first and drove through the neighbor’s backyard, carefully rolled over the curb into the street and went straight to the mechanic’s shop. I was careful to park in front of the garage where the car would not likely need to be backed up.

I had communicated by email with the shop co owner the night before and been told they could check out my car today and give me a ride to work. Otherwise I had a trip planner route from the shop to my customer’s house all worked out. My printer is out of ink so I drew the map by hand on the back of an envelope; it was to be a 3.14 mile walk taking approximately 1 hour 15 minutes from departure to arrival. I had gone to the website for our city’s transit system looking for bus routes, but had been given a plan that included a stroll down the northbound side of our beltline; so I was glad to receive the email from Cathy in the morning that said “Come on in. We’ll give you a ride.”

The first technician arrived at 8:00, greeted me politely and opened the front door. He said he would take me to work “as soon as Cathy rolls in.” After turning lights on in the service bays and back office areas and speaking with another early customer, he went out to have a look at my car. By the time he returned Cathy had arrived. He said, “I started it in gear, so I think it’s the clutch.”

At that point I still didn’t realize that a major repair was called for. I thought clutch meant they could put a little fluid somewhere, or maybe bleed the hydraulic lines that powered the clutch. It wasn’t until Cathy called me a few hours later and said, “It is the clutch,” and the line fell silent that I finally asked how much it would cost. I could hear her tapping away at the little adding machine “$935.00.”

“Oh, that’s why we’re talking. Wow.” I was in shock. Time to dump this car I thought. I said so, “So wow, I guess maybe it’s time to talk about whether or not I should stay with this car.”

"Well, I don't know. Where can you find another car for $950?” she said. “I mean, you know the car.”

She was right, “I love that car! Ok, I’ll take my chances that it won’t need another big repair.” She explained that the clutch was an older type which is cable operated as opposed to the newer hydraulic that I had in mind, and said the repair would take all day because they had to remove the transmission to get at it. That changed my plans for cleaning a second house in the afternoon; this trip to the shop would not be a quickie for my little Honda.

I called my afternoon customer and told them I can’t come today; maybe tomorrow, and settled in for a good thorough cleaning of the dog hair on my morning customer’s red sectional sofa.

What a relief, I don’t have to go out and look for another car. Thank goodness for angel mechanics and credit cards.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Self Employed Housecleaner

That’s the phrase I write on the employment line of forms. In the last year I have filled out many of them to apply for jobs or free medical assistance; then there are always my son’s school forms or the yearly forms to keep him enrolled in state funded health insurance. On tax forms where you have to pick from a list of options I finally settled on the category ‘janitorial services’ though I don’t feel that describes my business. I have called myself 'the maid,' or since I’m rarely on time and have a reputation for free living, 'the delinquent maid.' I’ve been called an angel and 'the white tornado.'

I think of myself as a housecleaner, but when it comes to my job what I really think about is my customers and how happy they make me feel about my work. I never leave a house without being thanked unless of course no one is home, in which case I have the pleasure of looking back, as I gather my things, on the spotless floors and counters, freshly vacuumed carpets and winking dust free furniture.

New customers are fun because I have a chance to transform a home from the baseboards to the trim over doors and windows. Each time I return to a house I can enjoy the progress I made on the previous visit. Usually I am able to finish at least one room in several hours of vacuuming, scrubbing, moving furniture or appliances to go after the dirt trying to hide from my determined fingers. I know in the end I will win, it is just a matter of time and effort. Each little task; the window ledges laden with black or yellow powder, sprinkled with bugs or leaves, the storm windows that must be removed to reach the outer panes of the inside windows, the screen with cobwebs fanning out from an upper corner, the trim, the walls, the baseboards, the floors under the rug, behind the sofa …dirt is everywhere and I am right behind it.

Why Astrology

Mansions of the Gods
We go to an astrologer to be lifted up to the sky and see our mundane lives from the whirling, wheeling interweaving stars. Astrologers keep up with poetic time; the time of seasons and light following, piercing darkness; moving, changing, growing, waning and disappearing for hours or days at a time. They speak the language of natural time and life cycles; plants, animals and the love uniting all things; all one life. They talk of chances flowing upon chances like a river of opportunity floating past, ready to take us away.
Astrology is a mythology of the known universe, a glamorous, glittering cloak enfolding all. Twinkles, pins and shimmering Death Valley heat; it’s all there. The sand, water, cactus, birds, insects; every imaginable life form an entity: all one. Existence, one place one moment at a time.
This Little Light
Shine on. Shine on day or night; seen, or unseen. How can we not; carrying that spark, guarding that flame; want to picture that one life, imagine the unimaginable, remember all; any touch, person, word, moment emanating from nothing into being?
No one need remove anyone’s beating heart to prove how important the sun is, how from it we depend as puppets on strings or planets in tangential arcs; just open our arms wide, lift up our heads, and soak it in; face it and feel the light.
Shining in the Night
What we build is maybe a quiet place to bring that light in from the wind and rain; to keep it burning in a place that’s more comfortable, less worrisome; the mind, where we bring the light in, shine it against rock and see stories like shadows cast by a fire in the cave. We don’t really know who said that first, or even if it was written before Plato. There’s always the possibility of another page emerging from clay and dust, a new spark ignited from the past.
Under the Sheltering Sky*
We cling to that possibility as if we were shipwrecked survivors at sea or trapped on an island. We look for ecstasy in the night because it is there we feel enclosed by one great mind; the sheltering sky. There we can see into the real distance while our vision is compromised such that traveling an unknown road would be difficult and dangerous. We are stopped at that curtain of darkness as if by a magic force-field that advances, overtakes and then recedes from us.
Astrologers take us into the night, where we see many stars and court the moon like a queen in whose glory we all delight. She shines on all, rich and poor, blind, deaf, sick and dying. They take us out into the night and call our attention to the way she is shining; what shape she is in, whether she will be visible tonight. With astrologers we follow the moon through the sky as if she were a camel crossing the desert; reminded that Egypt, Palestine, the frogs croaking in Europe and America all look up to her. Water goes to her as growing leaves reach for the sun.
Movie Magic
So we go to astrologers in the same way we enter a theater in anticipation of some cinematic thrill. We don’t want to be told how the movie will end; we want to experience the images, the music and voices for ourselves. If the movie is a success, we leave with powerful images having entered our minds. These images will provoke new streams of thought like fresh mountain springs discovered along wooded trails. No future is predicted, but possibilities have been thoughtfully, artfully explored. We feel refreshed and alive with new ideas.
Finally, we go to astrologers for comfort. They show us specifically that all things pass. When we are anxious or depressed about a situation we feel unable to control, they demonstrate how things are always changing, and unseen possibilities are always around the corner. Astrologers help us recognize and identify conflicting feelings, because astrology is a language designed to explore the many contradictions that exist within every human mind. We learn through this poetic system of time and space, how we are truly one with the universe; that we are each literally a moment of love incarnated and borne on the vast river of time.
*The Sheltering Sky – a novel by Paul Bowles