I took my weed trimmer to a shop to determine whether it was worth fixing. It was the kind of shop that is vanishing in our nation: a place where the customer can walk into the back and talk to the repairmen.
I have always been less than satisfied with the auto dealerships where you hand your keys to a service rep in a starched shirt, pay your bill through a glass window to a woman behind a computer, and never see a busted radiator, feel a brittle fan belt or step in so much as a drop of oil on the floor.
This shop smelled of lubricants; the workbench full of unidentifiable tools and motors. The customary sign on the front table warned me that the insurance people wouldn’t let me take one step further, but at least I was speaking to real repairmen rather than having my yard tool shipped off to Malaysia, Greenland or a mysterious off-limits Oz-like diagnostic center elsewhere on the premises.
The four of us (two workmen, a friend sitting on a stool and myself) blabbed about nothing in particular for awhile and the mechanic promised they’d call me later after a part-time employee, a local “preacher man,” came to look at my machine.
What I overheard on the way out of the shop confirmed the authenticity of the place and led to my musing about our approach to the workplace. One of the repairmen, returning to the subject of the “preacher man” told his friend, “We warned this reverend that if he worked here he was going to hear some four-letter words.” (That’s close as I can come to describing what he really said.)
Give these guys credit; at least they gave the preacher man fair warning. Just for a moment imagine you are the “preacher man” who, seeking part-time work, is confronted with this challenge. What do you do? Walk away in self-righteous indignation? Give a lecture about the impropriety of cussin’? Reply with a hearty four letter word of your own, thus becoming one of the boys?
“What did the preacher man say?” asked the friend.
“He told us, ‘That’s OK; I live in the world.’”
All of us do. People of all faiths and no faith live in this unsanitized world where we often have no advance warning when our sensibilities are going to be offended. Comes the time when a person must separate him or herself from words and behavior hateful, demeaning and blatantly sinful. But many more are the circumstances when the acceptance of other people – even with their rough edges – is the better approach to human relations.
I received no word on my yard tool yet, but I’m glad to know the person who’ll be examining it isn’t holier than thou. He may influence on others by his simplicity of speech or, for all I know, he may employ a few well-chosen words when the situation calls for it.
Creede Hinshaw, of Macon, is a retired Methodist minister.