Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mind Vs. Muscle

So I’m sanding this floor when my cell rings (no, not my floor – we’re nowhere near that stage with our house yet). No, Gav was paying me to sand someone else’s floor. See, I met this couple in a bar and they loaned me a saws-all to use for gutting my house. They needed a contractor, so I gave them Gavin’s number, then I lost my job and since there’s not much call for teachers in New Orleans these days but plenty for construction workers, that’s how I ended up sanding their floor.

Let me toss in some advice here – if you ever find yourself sanding a floor, use an edger with wheels. The one I used on my place didn’t have wheels, and an edger weighs a good 15 or 20 pounds. Imagine crawling around your walls holding that up for hours while it has a big spinning disk of sandpaper on it that wants to catch and drag off across the floor so you have to hold it up enough that it doesn’t gouge and burn the floor, but not so much that it doesn’t scrape the crap off. And all this time it’s kicking sawdust in your eyes and up your nose. What I’m saying is – get the one with wheels.

Anyway, I’m doing this when the phone rings, not that I hear it because those sanders are loud, too, but I feel it. I don’t answer because starting and stopping the edger is something of a chore, but the next chance I get, I listen to the message and it’s the English chair from Loyola offering me four classes if I want them.

I think for a minute, considering the sander in my hands, the dust in my eyes, the satisfaction of a job well done, and wondered if I really wanted to give it all up for teaching.

OK, no, I didn’t. Not even for a millisecond. The hell with that – I will do my work in my ridiculously well-trained and horribly expensive head, and not just because I’m still paying for the education I crammed into it, but because physical labor is hard. You know that half-hour you spend at the gym every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and sometimes Sunday? Now do it everyday, all day. Yep, it’s the life of the mind for me.

I went by campus yesterday for the first time in a couple of months, and it’s much the same – mostly undamaged, but empty. Giant military vehicles still squat all over our parking lots, and the elementary school kids still run around for recess at the Catholic school on campus, though there are more of them now. Right across the street from their playground is the entrance to the human resources building with the sign on the door reading “All weapons must be cleared in the clearing chamber before entering,” whatever that means, though this time I didn’t have to show my I.D. to a helmeted, heavily-armed and camo-wearing guard to get in. The camo, by the way, is surprisingly effective in New Orleans these days – it fades right into the mud and debris.

Oh, and the other difference was I went there because I had a job, not to make arrangements because I had just lost it. So that “college English teacher” answer under “profession” in my profile is accurate once again, and when people ask me what I do, I no longer say, “Pre or post-K?” That’s about all I can ask for these days.


Jeff said...

Good post, I'm glad things are getting back to a semblence of normalicy. My lovely wife's family is from Grand Isle, and they've scattered all over the country.



Kate said...

Yay! I would say congratulations, Dale. But you're just getting back a small percentage of what you already earned.