Monday, January 4, 2010

Stop Light Chemistry

Dang, it was cold—-scratch that—-freezing out here at one of the busiest intersections in town. Of all days to be changing a stop light, and for all places for Josh to be struggling to get the safety harness on, standing in one of the turn lanes at Airport and Franklin. He’d only been working with the company for a week and hadn’t even learned how to pull on all the various loops and buckles necessary for his first ride up in the bucket. After struggling for five minutes to figure it out, finally, he broke down and asked for help. Moe, a black guy who had seemed to be working with these things since stoplights were invented, bent down in front of him.
“Oh, yeah, you bet. Easy as pullin’ on your pants.” He winked.
Josh managed a smile, only slightly embarrassed of what this must look like to the people stopped beside them at the red light waiting to get to salads and burgers and hot drinks. Moe hooked one of the legs in less than ten seconds. "There. Now you figger out the other 'un."
Feeling somehow vulnerable, Josh stepped beside the truck for privacy--at least from the cars on one side. The light turned green while he wrestled with the yellow nylon. A minute later, the light turned red again just as he got each of the buckles in a latch. There, that’d do for sure.
Moe slapped him on the back. “Come on, boy. You gotta get yourself broke in. Ain’t no way I’m goin’ up there today.”
“Wow, thanks.” Josh grinned sideways and stepped out from behind the truck to where the bucket hovered three feet off the ground. He walked bow-legged, the bulky harness pinching him in uncomfortable places.
Inspecting the harness, Moe let out an aggravated huff. “Good night, boy! You got this leg all tangled up.” He jerked Josh by the shirt, whirled him around, and began untangling the buckles on the back of his thighs. When he had finally finished, Moe slapped Josh's butt.
“Now, you ‘member dat for next time. Git up there and git ‘er done ‘fore the lunch rush gets worse than it is already.”
When Josh turned around to climb into the bucket, he happened to glance into the window of a Toyota Corolla idling at the red light in the lane not ten feet from him; and somehow, maybe it was the little grin on her lips, or the amusement sparkling in her eyes, he knew that she had seen everything—-seen and enjoyed every second.
He grimaced, suppressing the urge to run into the lane and beg her to wind down the window so that he could explain it all.
Instead, the light turned green, the F-150 in front of the Corolla lurched forward, and the young woman gave a little wave before speeding off.
Somehow, he knew she understood.

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