Friday, July 25, 2008, Pt. I

I drove one of these at work today. Well, not this exact one. But the difference to the average blog enthusiast (and frankly, to me) is negligible. I black-and-whited the shit out of the picture to make it more "me", but don't you think there's some kind of shame implied there? A tiny bulldozer is a tiny bulldozer, right? Who am I to desaturate its mustard yellow paint and crop the frame around it for better balance? I mean, fuck. What's this need to turn every image into the album cover for Nebraska? I'd like to think of myself as relatively nonpretentious, but it's hard not to feel like a pompous ass doing the job I do some days.

I work for the street department in my hometown, and it really is everything you'd expect it to be. Sun-soaked afternoons tossing hot, oily sand into a gouge in the road, punctuated intermittently by periods of shovel-leaning boredom. Diesel-fuel stains on worn-out dad jeans. A break room full of forty-something racists with chips on their shoulders. Greasy men driving big trucks and swearing at each other.

Those who know me will understand why I feel out of place in this job. I am what you might call "little", embodying the marshmallow-fed, outcast, Midwestern nerd-child stereotype we've all come to know and love since the release and runaway success of Juno. I'm like Paulie Bleeker without the track and field records. Also I'm not nice and I don't get laid. Frankly, that was a terrible comparison. What were we talking about again?

Right. Suppose Jack Black decided to put on a shirt and do manual labor for eight hours a day with a dozen or so hard-bodied, sun-leathered Aryans for a summer. Except with more pantomimed masturbation. Yeah, more.

Today, my primary task was shoveling a year's buildup worth of grease, lost bolts and nuts, dirt from truck tires, and a moldy organic buildup on top of it all out of the trench drains in the mechanic shop. The consistency of this muck is somewhere between wet sand and Jello pudding, and it smells something like a mulched, half-rotten pile of forest litter in a wet rubber bag. I have to bend much further down than is naturally all right to be able to scrape the bottom of the foot-deep concrete ditch, and then I get to take this shovelful of ashen gray, petroleum-saturated, black fluid-dripping deliciousness and dump it into the front-end bucket of the tiny bulldozer seen above.

Somewhere toward the end of my toils, by which point I must have scooped half a ton or so of this awful shit, I see something skipping around, ornery and lively, in the gutter. It's a tiny frog, covered in a brown slick. Only his eyes shine yellow through the mechanical filth. I'm reminded of countless Green Peace-funded videos showing oil-drenched pelicans being restrained and gently washed by freckled nature girls. But, barring a sponsorship from Dove Soap, I am forced simply to snatch up my amphibian partner and place him in the tiny oasis of trees near the shop.


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