Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

A corker of a mechanic

By necessity I learned auto mechanics.  When pastor's salary qualifies him for poverty level benefits, he finds ways of saving money.  One of those ways is to eliminate (or at least reduce) the obscene price of auto repairs.  So I used to change the oil in all my cars, including the filters and make minor mechanical repairs.  So it was not strange for me to replace the fuel filter on our old, green Pontiac station wagon.  That was 30 years ago.  Cars were mechanical contraptions way back then.  Now they are just a large piece of computer hardware.

Now it so happened that at that point in our lives Barbara was working for the transportation department of Modesto Junior College as a secretary.  She got to know the "boys" who were bus drivers and mechanics.  It was very natural, therefore, for her to ask them about any problems I might be experiencing in my efforts as home mechanic.  We had a cute VW bug as well as the green monster wagon.  As each of our kids reached that magic plateau of driving eligibility, they learned how to operate the four-on-the-floor stick of the VW.  Everybody loved that "scooter", and they still hold it against me for turning it in for that stupid Sapporo.  Whenever all eight of us were traveling, however, the choice of comfort was the green monster.  There was no seat belt law in those days.  (Yes, I am very old indeed.)  Two or three kids could always stretch out in the back on a mattress in the bed of the wagon. 

The fourth of July was approaching, and I was having a problem with the green monster.  It would start and idle normally, but as soon as I tried to put it in gear and pull away from the curb, the monster would cough and quit on me.  We were planning to drive from Modesto over to the San Jose area to see relatives and enjoy fireworks with them, and we needed to use the green monster for that.  So Barbara asked her buddies at MJC for suggestions.  I wasn't too proud to try them all.  Nothing seemed to cure the Pontiac of the feebles.

We put it up to a vote among the kids.  Shall we spend the fourth here, or shall we cram everyone into the VW bug and go see uncle John?  Uncle John won the vote.  Did you ever see the circus clown act in which a dozen clowns climb out of some miniature vehicle?  They had nothing on the Keller family.  Philip found enough room behind the tiny back seat to contort his body.  Two kids sat on the back seat, each with another kid on his lap.  Baby Jonathan sat on his mother's lap as she rode "shotgun".  It was an 80 mile trip, and only once did the crew insist on stopping to stretch.  I wonder if anyone was watching.  At least no traffic cop was looking.  Even in the dark ages we must have been violating some existing law.

Some days later, out of desperation, I made a more radical check of the Pontiac.  Some of the boys from the traffic department, when they heard that I had recently changed the fuel filter, suggested that I check to make sure it was not a faulty part.  One of the laws of mechanics says that if you have recently worked on a part of the car, it is most likely that it is the recent change that is at fault.  So I tore it all apart and carefully examined every part.  Uh oh!  Now I remember that when I disassembled the gas line in order to install the filter that the siphon effect was spilling my fuel onto the ground.  I solved that problem by finding a tiny cork to plug the line.  To my complete embarrassment I found the cork still doing it's job.  It seems the cork had turned at an angle just enough for a trickle of gasoline to flow through.  But when I stomped the gas pedal and the carburetor gasped for a flood of fuel, it was still getting the tiny trickle, so it coughed, sputtered and stalled.

You can imagine Barbara's buddies at MJC holding their sides and wetting their pants after she told them.

Monday, August 8, 2011

She's a delight!

If you see a twinkle in my eye, it must be a reflection of my great granddaughter, Lillianna Jeannette Christian. She is only four, but she's a delight.  She is computer savvy.  She asks to play the games on my phone, and when I let her (of course) she asked me to help her because she was stuck.  When I looked, she had begun downloading games to the phone all on her own.  Only this time it was stuck because the program was asking for my credit card number!  "No, Lilly, we only get the games that are free."

We were playing a kid's game on the computer which required the player to duplicate the ordered cake for the bakery.  When the cake is mismatched, the chief baker comes out to bawl out the player.  Since Lilly does not yet read, I have to read it for her. He says something like, "That cake was not what the customer ordered!  You have to match the picture."  Yadda yadda.  This time I decided to entertain her by reading these lines in character.  My voice was loud and gruff.  Lilly reached over her shoulder and patted my face.  "Calm down, Papa, calm down."

She enjoys helping her Papa water the plants in the back yard.  I fill a watering can with water and she pours it on the most remarkable places.  (You don't think I would trust her to hold a spouting hose, do you?)    In spite of my efforts she usually gets a little wet during this activity.

Now her fifth birthday is approaching, and watch out world!  Her mother asked her what she wanted for her birthday, and she responded, "A dirt bike."  Please tell me where a little tyke comes up with an idea like that.  "No, Lilly, you're not getting a a dirt bike for your birthday."  "What else do you want?"  "A boat."  Do you get the idea some meddling adult has been whispering in her ear?  "No, Lilly, you're not getting a boat.  Now think about it.  What would you really like for your birthday?"  Her mother reported to me that she was stopped at a red light so she could see in the rear view mirror her eyes peering up and a very thoughtful look configuring her little face.  "A driver." she said.  A what!?  "A driver."  What would you do with a driver?  Where do you want to go?  "A driver could take me to see you at work."  I didn't know the concept of a driver was even in the vocabulary of a four year old.  I conjured up a distorted image of "Driving Miss Daisy".  She's either been watching the wrong shows on TV or some mischievous adult has been playing games with her head.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In the Tomb

It rather frightened me when I took the call to serve the OPC in Wilmington, DE.  I was leaving a tiny new church plant in Neptune, NJ to be the pastor of the fifth largest church in our denomination.  They were going to hire a secretary for me because they finally realized how much work the former pastor had laid upon his shoulders.  Jay Adams was my senior pastor at the time, and I asked him what I was going to do with a secretary.  She can't write my sermons for me.  Jay said, "Put her between you and the phone.  She'll be worth more than 6 assistants."  And that is just what happened.  It was nice to have a charming buffer between you and the irate church member.

But there was no place in the building that was built to be an office.  They took a large closet and made it a tiny office.  We had one window, but being below ground level we could only see daylight from the window well dug below ground level for the purpose.  We had two nice desks in there, but the space was so limited that the desks reached from one wall to the opposing wall with no space between them.  On the counter space immediately behind us as we sat at our desks was the mimeograph machine on which we printed bulletins and other documents.  Needless to say that I spent as little time as necessary in the office.  I set up a nice desk at home, using a varnished wood door supported by two metal filing cabinets of the right hight.  That made a mammoth desk on which I could spread out all my books and papers needed for my current studies.

Vit Paul, my secretary, had an ironic sense of humor.  She named the office "the tomb".  We had to leave the door open all the time for fear of claustrophobia or lack of oxygen or both.  When Presbytery realized that I now had a secretary they elected me Clerk.  I could hand my rough drafts to Vit for her to transcribe into the numbered pages of the Presbytery minute book.  Bottom line was, the time the church saved me by hiring a secretary, was more than used up by my responsibilities as Clerk of Presbytery.

Then there was the day we had a fierce thunderstorm.  Unless you have lived in the east, you do not know what a thunderstorm actually is.  To get the effect you may sit in your car while you get junior to pour a bucket of water slowly over the windshield.  It couldn't have been more than 30 feet from my front door to the car in the driveway, but if I didn't use an umbrella I would be soaked to the skin getting to the car.  This thunderstorm struck on a Sunday afternoon, as I remember.  I was concerned that the tomb (office) might be leaking since it was underground.  I drove over to the church to investigate.  Now a truly wise minister realizes this is a trustee concern.  He learns how to delegate labor.  But I was not a truly wise minister.  My concern about water was not without merit.  When I stepped into the tomb I could see the water above the sill of the window about four inches.  It looked like an aquarium.  And not unexpectedly, the water was leaking copiously through the cracks into the tomb (office).  Instinctively I dashed to the window and opened it!  This swift action of mine, of course, brought that four inches of water immediately onto the floor of the tomb.  So I closed it, of course.  Why, I cannot now tell you.  I think I was hoping the water would still be there in the well instead of on the floor.  At this point I did what I should have done in the first place.  I called one of the trustees and reported the mess.

Aren't there certain instances in everyone's life that are good to recall just for the purpose of maintaining a modicum of humility?