I took the whole week off this week and I am spending it in my favorite place which is a wooden bench in my own back yard. I have been in a very reflective mood lately and I figure that Semana Santa (Holy Week) would be a good time to sort things out. My wife Gina invited me to go on a ten mile walking pilgrimage with her to visit the shrine of the Cristo Negro in Salamanca on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) but I told her no, that I would prefer to sit this one out...on my bench. This past year has been quite tumultuous to say the least and it appears that there is no end to the turmoil. First it was the banking crisis, mortgage failures, and burgeoning unemployment figures. Then it was the Democrats and Republicans trying to kill each other over health care. Now the Catholic Church (my Alma Mater) is coming under ever increasing fire over pedophilia scandals involving the clergy all the way up to the top of the church hierarchy. I need to think all this over. There is so much mindless crap springing up all around me and I must try to figure out why so many of my fellow human beings are like cows grazing on grass that is growing up through their own excrement and I need to determine if life on Earth is nothing more than a string of unfulfilled expectations. I hope to come through this week with a resurrected view of life and a renewal of hope but right now it looks like a long shot.
Let's get back to the bench, shall we? It is the most comfortable wooden bench that I have ever sat upon. You can get an idea of what it looks like from the sketch below. I acquired the bench back in 2001. One day I was driving along a rural highway not far from Irapuato when I saw a man with an old truck sitting by the side of the road with a bunch of rustic looking furniture. On a pure whim I stopped my car and got out to have a look. One of the things that caught my eye right away was a heavy wooden mesquite bench with places carved out to match the curves of the human body. It looked comfortable and inviting and I sat down. It immediately struck me that this was a nice place to sit. Just out of curiosity I asked the man how much he wanted for it. It just so happened that it was part of a set that include two other pieces of furniture and that he wanted 2,400 pesos for the lot. Sadly, I told him that it was too bad that even though I liked the bench I did not have that much money and besides, I really had no use for the other furniture. I reluctantly got up and with one last longing glance at the bench I started walking toward my car.
As I was about to start the engine and drive away the man stopped me and told me that he really needed to sell something and asked me if I would take the bench by itself for 1,500 pesos. This was when the peso to dollar ratio was a little less that 10:1 so it would cost the equivalent of about 160 dollars. I begged the man's pardon and told him that I was sorry but that was still a bit more money than I had. I started the car and was about to drive off when he blurted out "Okay, 1,200 pesos!". I turned off the motor and sat there thinking about it. It was a very good price and I really wanted that bench but even if I bought it I didn't know how I would get the bench home. I explained this to the man and he got very excited an said "No problem, I will put it in your car". I thought that he was joking because I was driving a little Chevy hatchback that in Mexico is called a "Chevy Pop" and in the U.S. it is called a "Chevy Joy". So I decided to joke along with him and I told him that if he could get that bench in my car so that I could still drive safely I would buy it for 1,200 pesos. He asked me to get out of the car and open the hatchback and he got to work. First he folded down the back seats. Then he quickly disassembled the bench which was not hard at all. He and his son loaded the pieces in the wink of an eye and left me shaking my head in amazement. Then I started to panic. What if I didn't have enough money?
I searched my wallet and my pockets a came up just short of the 1,200 pesos that I needed and I felt my face reddening with embarrassment. My heart began to palpitate. Just then I remembered the money that I kept above the visor in case I ever needed to contribute to the policeman's donut fund and it was just enough to complete the transaction. I went home a happy camper with the bench squeezed in from hatchback to windshield and with just enough room to turn the steering wheel and I have been sitting pretty on my bench ever since. Now I must get back to the task at hand...enlightenment.
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