Transportation

 
 

Open Letter to That Motorcycle Dude In the Hotel Laundry Room

Dear Motorcycle Dude in the hotel laundry room,

It’s been over a month since I ran into you at that hotel a couple hours outside Yellowstone Park and you’re still on my mind. I thought perhaps if I wrote you a letter it might clear my head, or at least sort out my thoughts.

I don’t normally wash laundry at hotels, in fact, this is the first time ever. I didn’t even know hotels had a laundry room that guests could use. Pretty handy.

Clearly I startled you more than you surprised me. I was just standing there with my laundry bag of whites waiting for the single washing machine to finish its cycle, wondering who else in the fully booked hotel needed to throw in a load. I figured whoever it was would be in shortly and I’d just wait rather than wandering back to the room. You walked in just as the cycle on the washer ended, which was dang good timing, if you ask me.

When you walked in with your face turned away from me and toward the washer I thought you were a woman with your long wavy hair. But I was wrong. When I caught a glimpse of your face the beard gave it away.

I said something dumb like, “Wow, good timing there.” And you about jumped out of your shorts. Obviously you hadn’t seen me when you walked in. If the situation had been reversed I’d have probably fainted.

800px-yamaha_fzs600_fazer_rj02“Oh, hey,” you said, sounding all cool and collected, as you gathered up your clean wet clothes and tossed them into the only dryer. You threw out a conversation starter with,  “I road my bike up from Cali. There’s a bunch of us. Been up in Yellowstone.” You reached into the washer a little further.  “Man it’s crowded up there.”

“Yeah,” I said, trying to sound cool myself. “I’ve been wanting to get back up to Yellowstone but I figure I’d try to go after the crowds settle out, maybe after Labor Day, in September.” In my head I knew it’d be pretty dang cold already in September, but that’d be the best time to go for someone who doesn’t like traffic and crowds like me. I don’t like the cold either, but it’s the lesser of the three evils.

“It was nice. Glad I went.” You settled your quarters into the coin slots and pushed in the lever, and started up the dryer. “All yours,” you said with a smile.

“Thanks. Nice meeting ya,” I replied.

“Same here,” you replied. And you were out the door and down the hall.

I started my load of washing, adding the miniature box of laundry powder MSH had gotten at the front desk, pushed in my own quarters and levers, and set my phone timer.

Half an hour later, when I went back to the tiny laundry room the washer hadn’t finished its cycle yet. So, once again I stood there waiting. The dryer was still tumbling a load dry, too. A couple minutes later you walked in and said, “hey!” like we were old friends.

“Hey there,” I said back.

electric_clothes_dryerAs you were pulling out your dried clothes you offered up this surprisingly personal information, “I have a couple twenty year old boys. One of em has a baby, dang kid. “

“Sweet!” I said.

“Yeah,” you answered, stopping with your laundry gathering for a moment. Then you added this gem, “I can be standing there at work getting yelled at by some plumber and my phone will ding with a text. “ Then you held your hand up like you’re telling a guy to hold that thought a second. Then you go on. “I’ll look at my text on the phone,” and here you held up an imaginary cell phone, ” and there’s a picture of the baby. Just then I could care less what I’m getting yelled at for. My face breaks into a smile. Man!” And your eyes lit up like how I feel when I’m with my own grand babies.

“Grandkids are the best, aren’t they?” I answered. “Makes it all worthwhile.”

“No kidding!” you said as you gathered your laundry into both arms. I grabbed the door handle and pulled it open for you. “Thanks!” you said as you made your way down the hall.

I gathered my wet laundry from the washer and tossed it into the dryer wondering why you chose to tell me about your sons and a grand baby. I don’t think you mentioned if it was a girl or boy. I wish I’d asked to see a picture. Dang it!

I felt lucky to have heard about this small joy in your life. I have no idea even what your name is or what part of California you’re from. I think the juxtaposition of a “motorcycle dude” as a softhearted dad and grandpa just caught me off guard. It shouldn’t have. After all, my son rides a motorcycle, and he’s one of the nicest guys I know.

I definitely have a tendency of putting people in categories, not as a judgmental thing, just as a way of simplifying life. If I think of every single person as a complicated, intricate puzzle of relationships and feelings I might get overwhelmed by worry, or love or responsibility or concern, but maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d just be happier and more open to possibilities.

Thank you for sharing that tiny bit of information about a huge part of your life. You opened my eyes and heart. Every time I see someone on a motorcycle now, I smile. And I wonder how they are and who they are.

From now on, when I see a motorcyclist, I’d like it to remind me not to box people into categories so quickly. Sure, people can be messy and complicated, but they can also bring such sweetness and light.

motorcycle-safety-signHey, you stay safe out there, especially on those California highways. I wish people in cars would be more careful, y’know, look twice, pay better attention. I’d hate to have anything bad happen to you.

 

With affection,

The lady in the laundry room,

Kami

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Being Human, People, Transportation, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Construction Zone Ahead, Please Merge, and Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

It’s Gratituesday! Like the person with a leaky roof, I’ve got gratitude options pouring in on me. I haven’t got enough buckets and pans to set out to contain it all. To zero in on any one of them feels somehow unfair to the rest of my gratitude.

Weird, I know.

One thing that I’ve thought about for a few years now might seem dumb. But it keeps coming to mind even amid the more obvious, showy, big or happy things I’m thankful for.

Up near Flagstaff, actually.

Up near Flagstaff, actually.

I’m thankful today, and have been for a long while, for our amazing freeway system here in the Phoenix area.

When we first moved here nearly two decades ago there existed a north/south freeway of two lanes each direction and an east/west freeway of two and occasionally three lanes. Oh, and one that kind of veered off to the south and east. At least that’s how I remember it. Traffic always backed up all day long, all night long. At certain areas traffic bottle-necked into a tangle that made side streets seem the faster route.

Then the roads started getting widened. It’s tough to see the good when an already too small road becomes a construction zone. But, I remember seeing those workers out late at night with work lights blazing, or during the day in ungodly summer conditions and thinking how grateful I was to them for being willing to work such a difficult and demanding job. When the construction finished I remember thinking how amazing it felt to zip through town so quickly.

Every year for a while, more roads grew out of the desert, then existing ones widened, tweaked, and modified. Every change makes life easier to navigate in a car and simplifies my day.

Phoenix and surrounding ‘burbs now boast a loop that services nearly every community with quick, easy access to a freeway and few areas that truly jam up too much. And more roads continue under construction. To me, it’s an engineering marvel that such things exist.

Uh oh, traffic cones, better slow down a bit.

Uh oh, traffic cones, better slow down a bit.

My Dad worked for the Department of Transportation as an engineer while I grew up. I remember looking at the blueprints, the fancy drawings, the meticulous hand lettering,  the pages and pages of notes, and wondering what that had to do with roads. Back then the math was done with slide rules and on paper, and then calculators; the drawings done without the aid of computers. Amazing stuff now that I think back on it. To this day when Dad drives along a road he helped engineer in one way or another he comments, remembering details and stories about specific curves, hills, turns, side rails and even striping. Is that something? I think so. It says he put himself into his work. He took pride in it. He cared about what he did.

To men and women like him back then when the freeway system was in its infancy and toddlerhood, to the many people now, with the roads somewhere between teenager years and midlife crisis, I feel a great desire to say “Thank You.” And to those who took paper and drawings and transformed them into asphalt and bridges, concrete and smoothness, I also want to say “Thank You.”

Rarely a day goes by that I’m not a recipient of the blessings of their imagination, brilliance, hard work, and sweat.

If you know someone who works on roads somehow from beginning ideas to end product or somewhere in between, could you pass along my thanks? I’m not sure of any other way to do so.

And by all means, in construction zones, slow down!

Cute car I spotted on the North loop 101 headed west. Don't worry, my passenger snapped the pic.

Cute car I spotted on the North loop 101 headed west. Don’t worry, my passenger snapped the pic.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Traffic, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Back Flash, Not Quite the Same as a Hot Flash, But Close

This thing is a Thing.

This thing is a Thing.

Saw this car the other day parked across the street that belonged to some parent watching his/her kid practicing soccer. My favorite two-year old couldn’t ignore the thing. In fact she insisted on touching it, tried opening the door, peeked inside, very nearly climbed over the side and into the cute yellow and black plaid seats. Then I suggested a photo-op and she copped a few poses for me. Then she seemed satisfied.

Little did she know I’d just done a back to the future moment during all of that.

I so much wanted to own a VW Thing back in the day. So versatile, I thought. So cool, with it’s convertible roof. I could just picture myself at the beach, my surf board tossed casually in the back after a day of sun and waves. Or just as easily I could envision my backpack and tent piled in the back as I drove to the mountains for a weekend trip. Or even better, imagine me, the famous writer zipping about town in my flashy Thing, to this book signing and that book signing. I’d pop a cassette tape of David Cassidy in the ultra-modern radio console, crank my windows down, put the top back and be the envy of all who saw me.

Not sure how I was going to afford that on my McDonald’s “how may I serve you” salary, but I could surely dream big back then.

I wouldn’t have picked yellow though. Red, fire engine, fingernail, Maverick RED.

And after the dance, the Stomp is what we really called the casual dances, I’d pile my friends inside and we’d head over to the local drive-in and catch a double feature. Wouldn’t that be fun in a Thing? I thought so. Still do.

I liked how different it looked. Not like every other vehicle on the road. Fitting in was for cheerleaders and football players, not smart people.

Flash Back to the here and now. Reality check.

I’m just glad to drive something reliable, even if it’s a bit dated. And, quite frankly, I’ve had my fill of cars that stand out for weird reasons. Fading paint job, a never repaired gash, a window that won’t close, shocks that desperately need replacing on a nearly zeroed out budget.

I’ve been to the beach exactly four times. Closest I came to surfing was a sad imitation of someone boogie boarding. Gave a bunch of people a few good laughs, though.

Camping, I’ve done a ton of that. With MSH and the whole family. There’s some solid good times there. Sometimes all our gear sat atop the tiny Datsun in a totally uncool car top carrier. Sometimes it all fit in the back of the custom van or SUV. Sometimes it took a combination of both.

I met MSH dancing. That turned out okay. We even have a drive-in movie story that’s pretty funny.

We still have a cassette player in the truck we occasionally drive if we have to. There’s some pretty sweet tunes in our cassette collection. Chicago, Vivaldi, Three Dog Night, MoTab, Safety Kids, Brian Adams, Windham Hill, Whitney Houston, Yo Yo Ma, Hercules the Sound Track, Mason Williams, Sharon, Lois and Bram, Bread, Kenny Loggins. I could go on for paragraphs.

No book signings yet, I’m afraid. That would require an actual finished book. Working on that one. So maybe someday…

For the record, nowadays my dream car happens to look like this:

1975 Maverick Grabber

1975 Maverick Grabber

Oh yeah, baby!

Some of us just can’t let go of the past, at least, tiny bits of it. Ah, those were the days!

Categories: Fun, Memory Lane, self-image, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Sainted Mechanic of Rio Caballo

In recent news: “Pope Francis cleared two of the 20th century’s most influential popes to become saints, approving a miracle needed to canonize Pope John Paul II and waiving Vatican rules to honor Pope John XXIII.”-By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Saint Bonaventure Window

With such generosity and goodwill wafting about I’ve come up with my own candidate for Sainthood. Whether or not he receives approval by the Pope or anyone else for that matter, is of little consequence. In fact, he isn’t Catholic, so I’m pretty sure he’ll be off the list on the first round. To me, this man is a true Saint by any measure.

He has performed miracles, uses his great gifts to bless the lives of many, brought the dead back to life, and brought hope to countless numbers whose hope wavered, flickered and nearly flamed out.

Who is this man and why haven’t we read about him in the news? Ah, for two good reasons.

1) he is humble and unassuming

2) he is my mechanic

Yes, you’re reading this correctly. I’m praising the man who repairs my vehicles. He deserves high praise, in fact.

How often does a mechanic receive such accolades? Rarely, I can tell you that. We’ve had some doozies when it comes to car repairs. A few mechanics in the past obviously thought we owned a money-tree orchard. If that were true we wouldn’t be driving fifteen-year old cars around, would we? I suppose desperation drives (cough) people to do ridiculous things and spend food and rent money to keep a car running. Unlike some shysters we have encountered in the past, our mechanic is honest, direct and helpful with reason and sanity.

This guy is amazing.

  • He makes house calls.
  • If the problem with the truck or car is something that MSH or my son can reasonably repair, saving us the cost of labor, he’s happy to explain the process, suggest places to find the parts needed at a decent price and answer questions if they come up.
  • More times than I care to count, he has resurrected a car past the “stinketh” stage.
  • He has taken mercy on us on occasion and moved our sole working car to the head of the line of cars outside his backyard shop.
  • Widows often have repairs done at little or no cost, because he can. What a good guy!
  • If it isn’t repairable, he’ll say so, flat-out. “Dude, you need to get a different car. Sorry to have to break it to you.”
  • Car repair isn’t his first job. It’s a kind of hobby/second job/good Samaritan thing he does.
mechanic with car

(Photo credit: anyjazz65)

Alas, I looked up the requirements for canonization (i.e. becoming a saint) here and it doesn’t look good so far. Candidates must be deceased and my mechanic remains very much alive and rolling. Thank goodness, ’cause we’d be lost without him.

On the other hand, he has led an exemplary life, blesses others daily and has no skeletons in his closet or his tool chest, which are other requirements he clearly meets astoundingly well. He is a man of integrity and generosity and knowledge, a perfect combination in a businessman and a gentleman.

Countless car miracles have occurred to which we and others will gladly bear witness. Lame, maimed, nearly dead, completely dead, gasping, choking, smoking, he has dealt with and cured or at least temporarily revived many a sad car in its day. Surely a few minor rules could slide to allow a non-Catholic some well-deserved Sainthood.

Personally I’d love to reside where I could get by without a car. But for where we live and what we do, it isn’t terribly realistic. Maybe someday we’ll live in a tiny town where I can ride a bike everywhere I need to go. Or a big town where public transportation is convenient, on-time and reliable.

In the meantime, our mechanic will remain, anonymously, The Sainted Mechanic of Rio Caballo.

Categories: Humor, Transportation, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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