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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Photo credit: J. D. Morehouse

In June in the desert we get dramatic skies and days that alternate screaming wind (which flings dust into crevices everywhere) with spitting rain. This morning's raindrop count in my part of the valley was 147 on my front windshield, 19 on my rear windshield, 1 on my eyelid behind my glasses as I got out of the car. Speaking of that car, it looks like someone has thrown mudpies at it and that makes me unnappy. The inside is pristine, the outside looks like hell and where the Sam Hill is Vicente?

Vicente is a tall, stocky Mexican-American man who drives his rig around Las Vegas, pops into businesses and asks if people need to have their cars washed or detailed. He is not young. His black eyes dance. His dentistry includes gold "frames" around all of this front teeth and he has a smile that must make his face ache. His rig is quite presentable and the signage on it is expensive. It's my sense that he does well in his business. He wears good clothing - appropriate to what he does for a living, but good quality, clean, decent. Even a small woman alone would not be concerned about giving her car keys to Vicente - one is certain he will only drive it around the corner of the parking lot and return it to its parking stall.

To say that English is Vicente's second language would be saying too much. He has mastered every phrase he needs, however: "Need car wash?" "You're beautiful." "$20." "How's business?" If one tries to engage him in conversation, perhaps to suggest that she would like her car washed every other week rather than most Fridays . . . . his face becomes the perfect mask of puzzlement. Now I'm pretty good in a pinch, so I tried to show him that every other week thing on a huge calendar posted in the office. Uh-uh. No comprende. So, OK, it's not like I'm spending grocery money on car washes. I'll stick with the convenience of it and continue on with it most Fridays.

The trouble with our 2-year tango is this: Vicente is the poorest car washer in the world. He must like to vacuum the carpet, because it always has those cool diamond-shaped pattern from the vacuum attachment. I know he goes after the windows with vigor. On them he uses the towels with oily substances, so when I get in to drive it, I get the bright shiny grease slick effect. Never ever has he lowered the windows to get to the entire glass surface. I can tell when I lower the windows by the colletion of dust on the top strip. My windshield wipers always have threads of white towel flapping. My spilled Starbucks seems destined to remain on the console forever. My boss had Vicente clean his car once and has never repeated the experience for all my reasons stated.

And then there's his schedule! He says "every Friday". But it's more like every Friday when there's rain promised for Friday night, and never on the Friday when the week-long rain showers have ended. It's like "this guy washes cars - that's his livelihood. Doesn't he know when people want to have their cars washed?" So why do I put up with it? There are other options.

Except Vicente has charmed me. First he shared some new English words with me that he has learned. "Kidney dialysis" and "want to see my shunt?" When I heard that, I knew I'd be buying these car washes for as long as he can deliver them up between dialysis visits. My co-workers shake their heads on the Fridays that I write the check with the 50% tip. Even I have thought of asking my co-worker Cesar to speak to Vicente in Spanish and tell him our small business is feeling the pinch, and I can only afford car washes on a less frequent schedule.

And then he charmed me further. Two weeks ago Vicente chugged up the stairs to my second floor office to return my keys and collect his check. My iPod was playing and his face kind of lit up. "Beatles?" I smiled and nodded my head. And the man opened his mouth and let fly with a list of perfectly prounounced names: Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, Herman's Hermits, Dave Clark Five, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Animals, Jefferson Airplane . . . . . I am sure my jaw dropped, literally. And I haven't seen him since. I hope I do, and soon.

In my ears right now: Emmylou Harris - Artist's Choice

Why I like it: These CDs sold by Starbucks feature music selected by various well-known artists. I own a number of them and they always lead me to new, interesting performers. Musician's musicians.

Something that charmed me today: Remembering Vicente's recitation of every known music group of the 60's-70's. In perfect English.

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