“I’m just Everyday people”…Sly and the Family Stone
My dad use to tell me, get educated, don’t use you back for work use your brain. I put myself through college and got a degree. I even had a good job with my own office for a while. Yet here I am working with my back after retirement. Almost like all that education, training etc, meant nothing. However I would not be here if not for that. Everywhere we are, is because of where we have been.
Once in another past life I was an Auto mechanic. I worked for a car dealer, so yeah I was a serious mechanic. I recall in the 70’s I was working for a Buick dealer, when there was no work, no car at the moment, we would hangout and wait for a job to come up. I would go sit on a large storage shelve unit, crossed legs and just mediate, of sorts. I did not know what meditation was back then. People thought I was just sort of strange, off to myself sitting cross-legs just watching stuff. For me I was just being in the moment.
These days I flash on that again, while I wait for the group at the “Silver Center” to organize and go out into the field of whatever day job it is. I have been called back to work for the summer to work at the “Silver Center”. I do not hate it, but do not like it. The money is helpful, the exercise is good for me. I do wish it more year around at something, than only 6 mo. There is other stuff happening though out the year I am sure, but just not for me.
What is the Silver Center? It is a city own company/ operation that hires retired people, older than me, to do mostly in my group, landscape work. Like clearing overgrown bush in parks, water channels, yards, sometimes pickup dead flowers and stuff from some local shrines, trimming trees, helping some old person clear a house, or something. When the weather is cool or mild it is not too bad a job most times. Summer, like now can be brutal. Working out in the sun, sometimes on the side of a steep hill, mosquitoes! The big issue I have some times, is there is no toilet, for function #1 , no problem , just go off to the side stand and go. #2 can be a problem. I have to watch what I eat the night before and try to go before I leave the house or shop into the field. There are some places I know where a unit is nearby, a temple, convenience store, on the park grounds. Those are the good places. Some times there is none and I spend a lot of time hoping the morning weird stomach goes away. A couple of times it did not and I had to become a basic animal in the woods…Either way the first thing I check out on the work site is, where is the Loo?
The getting up at 5:00am used to be a big deal, now not so much. Except when it is dark and cold. At these times now, summer and hot, I am up, water the plants, Zazen, eat, then off to work. I stop on the way to do some TaiChi/Hsing Yi. So it is good to be up early and get that in before the heat. I ride my bike to work about 15 min. The group has already done their Japanese Morning warmup when I arrive. Usually I stretch then just Zazen off to myself.
Lately a couple of people will come over to me and ask for some kind of Qi Gong /accupressure treatment on their back or shoulder. I helped one guy I like before and the word spread, I can “do stuff” being a Shaolin Sensei. Some of these people I work with have never seen or talked to a real foreigner before, I am “unique” Some of the new peeps are surprised to see me. The older crew already know me after 4 years and are quite comfortable . I can play and joke around with a few of them and they back at me, including with the job foreman. They most times think about me when buying the group coffee and get me tea or juice. All are a nice bunch of guys. Most of them are older than me and yet hold their own out on the field. Even though I get some of the heavier lifting jobs, well most, they all when needed will do what is needed. I see some old guys who look like they are struggling when walking, climb up ladders and trees to cut stuff, or walk along on steep hills where it is hard to walk much less walk cutting growth back with a power machine on your shoulder. Yet these guys do it not complaining other than, “It is hot isn’t “, the normal saying here. I have seen a couple of new people stop working or taking a break , (of which we take a lot in the heat ), at the wrong time, and get scolded by someone, not a super or something just a working guy.
Overall people get along and look out for the group. If someone stops at a store for a drink or something cool, they will bring enough for everyone. Everyone stops what they are doing and take an unscheduled break. When we are working everyone has their job and work as a whole to finish, sometimes switching from role to role as needed.
At lunch, sometimes we sit as a group and eat then nap. Sometimes , and some places I can go off to myself as do some others, eat, practice my Shakuhachi and or take a nap. We regroup after lunch and back to the task at hand.
I miss working at the boat yard in some ways, it is/was more skilled required. But the owner was/is not a kind person. One felt weird when on a break which was only 15 min once a day. On the other hand at the Silver Center when we take breaks, no one get paranoid when the “boss” shows up. Our break is our break, and we have them as needed. If we are on break when a supervisor shows up, he will speak to just one person the header or sit with everyone a short while, sometimes bring refreshment. We do not have to feel weird when the “boss” is in a bad mood, or really anyone much, we have our assignments and do it.
I am usually a raker and or a dead/cut bush loader. Either into a trash packer or the back of a dump truck. I can put on my face mask for the pollen protection and stuff,. I get really bad allergies from the dried plants here in Japan. Near had it in the States even when I did this kind of outside work in Virginia. With mask on I turn on my iPod, and just work left alone or alone in a group. Really the only days I really hate is when something has to be done on the side of a hill, unless I am on task on top of the hill just pulling up bundles of cuttings and loading them into a compactor or something. Sometimes I have had to load up a pitchfork full of cuttings carried on my shoulder and walk up hill or a distance and uphill, because the access is that difficult. Sometimes, it is rake and compile on the side of a hill, lift the cuttings over a fence and down a another hill or something, all to be collected and loaded on a truck and taken to the city dump, where it is burned.
Sometimes we finish up early and sit around chatting so not to get back to the office too early. Since I do not chat well I usually, but not always go sit off to by myself in Zazen and some point think back to being a mechanic sitting on a storage shelf…and feel grateful.