Paint me ungrouchy

I was on the last day of a 13-day work week, tired, grouchy and woeful; basically a zombie in uniform.  I stopped at the convenience store on my lunch break, silently praying that no one would try to engage in conversation or thank me for my service.  As I came out, I noticed a guy sitting on an overturned bucket  in the handicapped parking space with his back to the store.  My first thought was, “Why’s this dude chillin’ on a bucket in the parking lot?”  It doesn’t take much to catch  my interest, especially when I’m in zombie mode. I tend to find curiosity in things that most consider mundane.  So me and my nosy self couldn’t resist walking over to check it out, forgetting my former plan for avoidance of human interaction.  Bucket man appeared to be painting  the lines of the parking space.  Upon closer inspection, however, I saw he wasn’t painting the line, but the handicapped symbol. He didn’t hear  me walk up and was cursing under his breath.

“Oh, sorry,”  he said, looking up.  Dressed in a white t-shirt and khaki work pants, he was youngish, maybe in his 20s just a few years older than my own son, with a few days worth of scruff, a shaved head and small gold stud in his left ear.  He looked aggravated.

“Wow, is that how those symbols are done?” I asked in amazement, leaning over, all in his work space.

“Yeah, there’s usually a stencil we use but they didn’t have one.”  He swatted at a pair of love bugs as he studied me, probably wondering what my deal was.

“Sooo you’re doing it all by  hand?” I asked increduously.

“Yeah,” he shrugged as it to suggest it was no big deal, but he also smiled, squinting against the sun.  He shifted on his bucket seat and became more animated. “The lines were already there; I’m just going over them.”  He was part of creating  a universally known symbol.  How could he downplay such a role?  I immediately recalled a quote that I had seen some time ago that stuck with me:  “Be nice to everyone, for you do not know what battles they are facing.”     Maybe he wanted to be somewhere else on a Sunday.  Maybe he hated this job, couldn’t stand his boss or didn’t have the qualifications to do anything else and had a family to support. Or maybe he was just aggravated about the lack of stencil.

“That is amazing! I have new respect for those parking symbols now!” I exclaimed.  He seemed embarrassed and just laughed, then swatted at another pair of mating insects.

“At least the weather’s nice and you get to be out in it. I’ve gotta go back to my job inside.”

He looked around, nodded and smiled. “Yeah, that’s true. I’m grateful for the nice weather.”

“Well have a great day,” I offered up, walking back to my car.

“Thanks, you too.”

Funny, but I entered my vehicle in  much better spirits than I had exited it.  As I drove away, I peeked in the rear view mirror.  Bucket man was still smiling, back at his painting with no stencil. I hoped my interest had given him a reprieve from whatever battle he was facing, even if only in the smallest way. He sure gave this Soldier zombie a bit of unexpected cheer for the battle of my own.

A peaceful link

Just wanted to share this neat website: http://calm.com/#     The site contains several different scenic views that play nature sounds. Very nice to have going in the background while you’re working or just relaxing. Enjoy!

Mapistry

I’ve always had a secret reverence for maps.  More from an artistic point of view than for practical reasons.  I’m fascinated by how the features are laid out to depict worldly locations and how the gridlines guide travelers from point A to point B.  The paths look like they would be easy to follow but from experience, I know they are not and I have a huge fear of getting lost.  So when I travel, I cheat and use the GPS on my phone or those online trip planners.  I prefer to regard maps the way one would observe paintings in a gallery, reveling in their archaic mystery while standing at a safe distance.

Unfortunately, practicality would become a necessary evil when I joined the Army and shipped off to boot camp.  I was horrified to discover that training would encompass more than just playing with guns; there would be land nav familiarization.  Or what I like to call, how not to get lost in the wilderness.  I forget the details, as I’ve tried to suppress most of that part of my life, but at least two days were devoted to an entire study of terrain features (as defined by Army standards), plotting points with the use of a compass (those things are still in existence?), then measuring our steps to get a pace count.  Using this information, we would go off into the woods and magically arrive at the checkpoints and exit the treeline.  That briefs well.

Much was lost in translation between the map plotting and the pace count. I couldn’t comprehend how the two concepts related to one another.  And, like math, I failed to see how this would ever be significant in real life, especially with the use of GPS devices.  Surely land nav had become obsolete by now. If it wasn’t, it should be.  So that was it, I decided.  Land nav would be the end of me.  I was either going to get lost in the South Carolina forest and die from hypothermia or wildlife mauling, or fail basic training because I couldn’t figure out what my counted steps had to do with getting from point A to point B.

When the dreaded day of the pass or fail evaluation finally arrived, I somehow found favor with the mapistry gods.  Instead of being tested individually, we were paired in groups.  Being with a group of guys is extremely advantageous for a lone female on such a mission.  The guys were all too eager to compete with each other and get the task done in the shortest amount of time.  There was much argument over who would do what. I remained quiet and summoned my powers to become invisible.  Apparently, it worked.  By the time the menial tasks were assigned, there was nothing left for me to do. I feigned disappointment.

“Wow, way to leave out the female.”

“Oh, sorry, White.” A round of rushed apologies.

“That’s all right, guys. I see how it is.” I stomped off ahead of them, as if I knew what I was doing, trying to hide my snickering.  One of the guys came after me.

“You can use the beads for the pace count, ok?” he said eagerly.  What a pal.

“I guess it’s better than nothing,” I muttered, clenching  my  jaw to keep from grinning.

We started off with me counting paces but it wasn’t long until an argument broke out over some wise guy calling out random numbers, followed by more arguing over how it cost us precious time for having to start over.  To make up for lost time, one of the guys decided he would be the pace counter, which was fine with me.  I joyfully followed along on their coat tails, skipping when they weren’t looking back, which was most of the time.  We (they) found our assigned checkpoints and our team exited the woods in record time.  I went on to successfully complete basic training, thrilled that I would never again have to deal with that crap.

Little did I know, the joke was on me.  Four years later, I was required to attend an Army school for career advancement: the Warrior Leaders Course.  What was part of the training? Land nav.  I had heard stories.  Here, they gave out whistles because Soldiers got lost.  Soldiers got lost! In the woods!  Or they would fail, more than once, and get sent home then have to return in the future to repeat the entire course.  And here, the final evaluation was done on an individual basis.  There would be no chest pounding Tarzans to lead the way.  I was being sent to hell.

I reported to the school after a long, miserable bus ride from Florida to South Carolina.  Compensation comes in many forms to the weary traveler:  being directed to the chow hall; receiving a room assignment and being told to “go chill” (which is very rare); and learning that a new curriculum has been implemented; one that does not include land nav-or a PT test, which is a whole different story.

“Who gets that lucky?” my fellow Soldiers back home wanted to know.

I didn’t know or care. I was just thrilled that the gods of mapistry chose to shower me with fortune once again.  This time around, I could appreciate the South Carolina forestry from this side of the treeline, at a very safe distance.

For Allison

Dragonfly

Hope…

is a dragonfly that opens its wings

or steps onto life’s stage and fearlessly sings.

Hope is a smile

When you want to ask why;

It’s the sun’s breaking rays

Through a once cloudy sky.

Hope is a flower

That springs up between weeds;

It’s a word that can be spelled out

In both letters and deeds.

It’s the laughter

The innocence

The love so true;

Hope is the mem’ries

That will last a lifetime through.

Copyright  © 2012 by Lysa M. White

Image

“Dragonflies are real!”

In loving memory of Allison Delaney Walker July 2, 1996 - April 18, 2012
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