Welcome to what I hope will be an ongoing and immensely entertaining series in which I interpret different bits of wisdom shared with me over the years by people who were as ineloquent as they were discerning. Great wisdom doesn’t always come in a pretty package. Sometimes the golden nuggets of timeless insight appear to us as gnarled, black lumps of an unidentifiable and mildly unappealing substance. It is important at these times to be alert enough to spot the wisdom peeking through the waste and resolute enough to pick off the nasty bits so that the sweet meats of mindfulness can be fully digested.
All I'm really saying is that I'm going to occasionally post some of the more colorful colloquialisms I've heard over the years and comment on them. There won't really be much actual wisdom here, per se. But I'm pretty sure you will get a chuckle.
While I was in college, I spent my summers working on the assembly line at Kenworth, building the world’s best eighteen-wheelers. It was hard work that made you more than ready to quit by the time your shift was over. I’d go home each night so covered in grime that any exposed skin was no longer pink but a very gritty black. Showers were quite lengthy. My nose hairs grew like kudzu.
Working at a place like Kenworth in the summertime wasn’t unlike trying to make it in the jungle. It was hot, it was dangerous, and most of the denizens were far less than friendly. And sometimes things just turned up damaged or went missing entirely. Since each worker was required to own their own tools* and since cheap tools only serve to endanger your knuckles, it was nearly impossible to find someone willing to lend out an adjustable wrench if yours happened to go on walkabout. Everyone used either Snap-On or Craftsman** tools and kept them locked up tight when they themselves were not using them.
Except Willy. Willy was an old Louisiana cowboy in his mid-fifties; skinny as a pole, smart as a whip, and the friendliest guy you’d ever meet. He didn’t bother with the top-shelf brands. Every one of his tools read: “Made in Taiwan”. He used to refer to the generic Asian brand as “Taiwan-Easy”.
Willy never had a problem lending out his tools. If you asked him if you could borrow his 9/16” combination wrench, he’d hand it to you with a smile and say, “Treat that like a dose of the clap, now.” And when you gave him a confused look, he’d finish with, “Don’t forget where you got it.” Then he’d laugh his infectious Louisiana laugh. He knew he’d get his wrench back – not because no one in their right mind would steal a cheap-ass Taiwan-Easy, but because no one in their right mind would ever steal from good ol’ Willy.
Words of Wisdom: Treat that like a dose of the clap: don’t forget where you got it.
Translation: I’m lending this to you with the mutual understanding that your knowledge of the agony imposed by gonorrhea is sufficient enough for you to appreciate the importance of returning it.
Not-So-Obvious Lessons: “Always return what you borrow,” and “Pee that burns is one of the worst things ever.”
*I’m talking about wrenches, screwdrivers… that sort of thing. Impacts, air-ratchets, sockets, and other such items were provided by the company.
**I was a Craftsman man myself, though I now swear by Snap-On.