Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The "Can" guy...

Some of you know I work in a very large store fixture shop; modern cabinetmaking. Sheet good work, plastic laminates, (p-lam to us, Formica to you), melamine, (thermofused plastics), edgebanded plywoods, some solid wood work.

What comes with this new building is a great eating-lunch/break-room. Two big coffeemaker, pop machines, (if I call them soda machines, can you guess where I grew up?), microwaves, big commercial fridge, toaster, toaster oven, comfy plastic chairs, windows, nice long, lunchroom tables. Big 40 gallon steel trash cans to recycle plastic and aluminum.

For the latter, every couple of weeks a can guy come in, dumps 40 gallons of pop cans into a big plastic sack, and ambles away. No one looks at him. Someone, known to only me, often makes weak tea yet perverse, condemnatory asides. Well, almost no one looks. I look.

His hair is tangles from being curly, not dirty. His skin deeply tan, face, forearms, hands. He's almost scrawny, but not quite...perhaps tightly stretched from an ascetic vocation: maker of living on cans. His teeth are not missing, yet his lips curl a bit, in the way they would if his teeth were missing. I did not see the look of alcohol desparation. Plus his shoes were tied, not falling off laceless. Nor were they worn badly at sides or heels, as some others' shoes are. Shoes that ought to cause their wearers to veer and careen like a wobbling shopping cart. And after two minutes he and cans were gone.

My friend...she must be a friend, she shares chocolate with me, shakes her head a bit and exhales, looking up...but exhales in compassion, not scorn.

"There but for the grace of God", I say.

And then, "The Grace of God. There's a phrase to strike terror in the left. It's not ever in their imagination, nor on their breath. They've chosen only scorn."

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