Monday, July 24, 2006

Why I like rural America

Life, I've found, does a much better job of giving positive reinforcement to bad habits than to good ones. They're generally easier, almost certainly more fun, and until they develop a "Save/Reload" function for reality, you can't really say if things would have turned out better had you been diligent about maintaining "good" habits. So what's the point?

Take procrastination, for example. As witnessed by my recent posting schedule, I find it's very easy to put off obligations. I think it was Mark Twain who said, "Never meet trouble halfway; something usually happens to it before it arrives." Now that I own a house, I couldn't agree more. Sure, an ounce of maintenance is worth a pound of cure, but who wants to measure out sixteen ounces of maintenance when you could just slap down a pound of cure later?

I put a stone patio in our backyard about a month ago, one of the most herniatingly good times I've ever had. A small stack of wooden pallets has been sitting in my driveway ever since, a byproduct of the stone delivery. Unfortunately, since I have enough room to park and can still get into the garage as needed, getting rid of the pallets hasn't carried any sort of immediate urgency for me. The garbage collectors wouldn't take them, and getting rid of them myself would require loading them into my truck and driving over the hot, sweaty dump, where I risked stepping on a rusty nail and needing to get my tetanus shots updated, which would further require me to spend even more valuable XBoxing time going to the hospital...hence, procrastination.

And then along came positive reinforcement in the form of my local United States Postal Employee, or as I like to call him, my Mail Dude. After a month of driving by my house and seeing the pile out there six days a week, he finally came by on a morning when I happened to be outside and asked if I was going to do anything with those, or if not, could he take them for camp firewood?

So, let me get this straight, the problem gets taken care of without any time or effort on my part?


Mail Dude came back that afternoon with his pickup, and I helped him load the pallets into an F-150 bed already packed with camping gear and various other sundries. So I guess it took a little time and effort on my part, but the payoff came in the form of this conversation:

Maildude: Let's see, just gotta make some room in my truck here... (moves a sack of potatoes).
Me: Mmm, spuds. Going to roast those in the coals?
MD: Nope. Those are for my potato gun.
Me: Potato gun? You got some unruly potatoes need keepin' down?
MD: (Takes out a 4' long contraption made of two pieces of PVC pipe with a screw cap on one end) Yep!
Me: How about that, a potato gun! What do you use to fire that, compressed air?
MD: Hairspray.
Me: Hairspray?
MD: (Unscrews cap and tips out a can of Clairol) Yup. I've got this grill igniter for a trigger...just put the wires to these two screws here, and push the button for a spark. Gotta clean the igniter, though, it's sticking right now.
Me: Well how about that. Hairspray! What kind of range you got on that?
MD: Depends on the potato, really. Good one'll go a thousand, fifteen hundred feet.
Me: Well, don't that beat all.
MD: Now, I know what you're thinking...
Me: I don't think you do.
MD: ...And the answer's no, you can't fire a golf ball with this. See, I went with the inch and a quarter PVC for this, I'd need to go smaller for that. But I'm gonna get a piece of that and cut grooves into the inside, and thread this end here so I can take it apart from the chamber. This one right now won't fit in my Camaro.
Me: Well, it's tough to get everything right on your first try.

Procrastination. Without it, I'd have missed out on this entire conversation, easily one of the highlights of my weekend. Now I just need a gravel truck to tip over in front of my house so I can finish my rock garden.


Anonymous said...

I seriously want a potato gun now. Brilliant. Maybe I'll just stop taking out the garbage, and see what luck comes my way...

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