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The Right Person for the Job

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

My girlfriend Veronica teaches weaving and carpentry (manualidades, things you do with your hands) at Arbol de Vida, the local Waldorf School in Atotonilco.

I wish I had learned manualidades when I was in grade school. Aside from being able to throw straight, I don't have much confidence in my hands. And then, throwing is mostly in the arm, isn't it?

I won't really sharpen my kitchen knives because I am afraid of cutting off parts of my fingers. My bucket list includes learning how to type.

A father of a student at the school is a professional carpenter. He was closing his workshop and offered whatever was left in it to Veronica for the school's carpentry workshop. Vero volunteered me for the retrieval.

I was to drive in my Volkswagen Crossfox to where Oscar lives behind La Comer and pick up his pickup. Then I was to drive to the entrance to Los Labradores (a short distance from the main road into Atotonilco) and meet up with the other volunteers.

Oscar has a significant piece of land behind the neighborhoods of Colonia La Lejona where the paved road ends and the open land begins. He specializes in green construction, with a sideline in importing his family's mezcal from Oaxaca. His house won an award for using 100% earth-friendly building materials. For his floors he did not use concrete, whose manufacture pollutes greatly, but another, organic mix.

When I got to his place, at the appointed time, there was no Oscar and no truck. When I called him he was apologetic, telling me that his helpers had taken the truck and would be back in 30 minutes. Knowing that "30 minutes" in Mexico might well be the day after tomorrow, and, that even if they were back in only 45 minutes, by waiting I would be 30 minutes late for my meet-up with the other volunteers, I thanked Oscar anyway and drove off.

The first one to arrive at the rendezvous point, I pulled into a turnout on one side of the entrance, parked, turned off the car and waited. Some short while later a car arrived and parked on the other side of the entrance some 50 yards away. Five minutes later a second car joined the first and the drivers got out and greeted each other. Not being familiar with either I stayed put. Then Katie arrived and parked aside of them. Her hazard yellow SUV disgorging four more people. At this point I started my car and rolled very slowly straight towards the group of now six people standing speaking animatedly together. My advance was ignobly arrested just before its ultimate destination when my front passenger tire fell into a muddy hole.

Without the truck and with my car akilter, it wasn't my best entrance. With a little lift and push we extricated my car. Then, with a little psychological lift and push, I convinced the team that, even without the truck, we should go to the carpentry workshop and move what we could with the vehicles we had.

The carpenter turned over the key to Katie and left. Back in our cars, a few minutes travel in the direction of Dolores found us at the carpenter's former workshop. He turned the key over to Katie and drove off.

Katie unlocked the door. The place was almost empty. There were three or four tables, one a narrow counter without a top, one screwed to the wall had only two legs. There was a prefabricated desk that had partially come apart, something you might buy from Ikea. There was a door, a short bench and a stool. The wood was mostly short pieces of two by four. There was some four by four. Very few of these boards were even as long as my arm. Then there were some smallish scraps of oddly cut plywood.

I would have taken the four-legged tables, the door, stool, bench and the longest pieces of wood and left the carpenter to throw away or burn his scraps. But the team was already moving everything towards our vehicles, so I did the best that I could, esprit de corps considered.

What I lack in manual dexterity I make up for in spatial awareness. I'm very good at packing cars. One fits in the largest things first and then packs smaller things around them. The front and back seats of Katie's SUV were needed for the return trip of the crew, but its rear hatch was already filling up with a jumble of small pieces of wood. I knew I could fit the oddly shaped plywood, along with the longer and longest pieces of two by and four by into my car where I was traveling solo. But first things first, we needed to secure the door, bench and tables.

Katie aside her SUV.

At that point, Andres grasping the concept, lamented the fact that we had no ropes to tie things to the roofs. (All this in Spanish.) Half smart-aleck and half wanting to assert my position in the hierarchy, I reply, "You have no ropes," producing two of mine from the backseat of my car. I always carry ropes in my car. I had them in hand at Oscar's ready to transfer them to his truck. Who would go to a moving job without ropes?

The debacle of my car stuck in the hole erased by this demonstration of forethought and competence, Andres and I hoisted up on top of the bright yellow SUV first the door and then the biggest table, spinning it mid-air so that it sit with its legs up. Then I left him to add up there the stool and some miscellaneous things and to lash it all down, and I began to systematically load my car.

Its top cargo battened down, its passengers aboard, the SUV drove off, leaving me to put the last few boards inside my car and to place the bench and the counter bottom up on my roof-rack. Ten minutes later I followed them along the route back to the school.

Note my muddy front wheel.

There, Katie and one volunteer were all that remained of the team. I drove up to find them rather dejectedly moving three or four pieces of wood at a time to the sidewalk outside Veronica's carpentry workshop. Katie lamented that she really did have to go. With her permission I backed her SUV up on top the sidewalk and with a little pulling and pushing, managed to dump the entire load of wood out onto the sidewalk en masse. Katie and the one volunteer drove off.

When I drove up Angel, the school's custodian, had been moving the door and the pieces of the disassembled desk into the workshop. Together we moved the tables alongside the outer wall of the workshop under the roof eave, and for the next 20 minutes we stacked the wood on those tables where it would be out of the weather and out of the way.

When we were done, Angel, grateful that I hadn't abandon him to clean it all up by himself, walked to the main gate and opened it for my car, closing it behind me with a smile and a wave.

Earlier in the episode, in front of the carpenter's ex-workshop, having just produced the rope, standing there with its coils in my hand, Andres abruptly reassured that we could move things on the roof, I turned to Katie and adapting a line from a Humphrey Bogart movie announced, "Pickup? We don't need no pinche (friggin) pickup."

In the movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, high in the mountains Bogart is confronted by some desperados, claiming to be the law. Our hero demands that they show their badges. Their spokesman spits out, "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges."

Veronica was happy. Katie had reported back to her that I was the right stuff for such a mission, or however you say that in Spanish.

A few days later Katie messaged me that she went back for "the crappy table" that I had rejected as unfit for the school's workshop. Veronica says it will be used out of doors, alongside the school's garden, next to the tool shed. I expect that most of the wood will also be used out of doors alongside the garden, burned in the fire pit there. Old and dry it will make pretty flames.

A pack-rat myself, when I say something is good for nothing you can be pretty sure that it's good for nothing. Five years ago, when my ex-wife was leaving San Miguel I inherited some stuff that she was leaving behind. Among nicer things I acquired another prefabricated, partially disassembled piece, a two-drawer, wooden filing cabinet. Rather than repairing it, I took it apart all the way. One day I may reassemble it, but for now it sits, stacked up neatly on end in my bodega. I hope and pray that I will never again need a filing cabinet. But you never know when you might need a nice piece of oak.


Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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