Wednesday, August 06, 2003  

Have you ever seen one of those time-lapse videos where the sky changes from night to day and back again in a matter of seconds and things that would usually take an extraordinary amount of time such as major building construction, traffic in midtown Manhattan, and setting up the stage for a Mötley Crüe concert just fly by?

There are some things, however, that no matter what the degree of temporal amplification is applied and caught on tape the documented change will remain substantially immeasurable. Things like the formation, growth, and death of celestial bodies fall into this category. The evolution of mankind into a species not preoccupied with the accumulation of wealth, status, and social affluence is another such thing. And, any one who witnesses countless hours watching the popular media waiting for Daisy Fuentes to be denied work due to lack of any discernable talent… also a grueling process of non-change.

I came across another the other day in my own hometown. They are building a new gas station, which is good news to me for two major reasons. Reason #1 is that marvel of the modern age, Pay At The Pump. They will have, the other two places in town that sell gas will not. Reason #2 is purely economical. I will save hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year on milk and other household necessities such as chocolate chip cookie dough, toilet paper, and like sundries that I don’t feel like driving the 35 minute round trip to the nearest grocery store. You see, out in the country where you have the gas station double as the local grocery store, you have these people who have a veritable fiefdom selling goods to the locals. They know you are not going to drive into town. You know you are not going to drive into town. So, an agreed upon price of $37 dollars for a gallon of milk and another $23 for an ice cream sandwich seems reasonable. Not so with a new gas station that will bring that great green monster of Capitalism to the boonies.

But problems abound. Construction gets delayed. The rains come at the onset of spring and with the coming of summer the dust and heat make the construction site look like a set from some B-movie about a modern apocalyptic plague. The signs are only half raised. The glass is never installed. The spots where the gas pump should be instead are covered in litter. A construction dumpster- an empty construction dumpster- sits and waits for the workers to return and make it useful. Days and weeks multiple and rejoin into large families, The Months, and then The Years. So much so that what was once a promise now seems like some money-losing joke a contractor with a “fuck you” attitude is playing on the people of my fair little town.

So I decided I wasn’t going to give in anymore. I was no longer going to expect to see progress and as a result I would not get inconsolably emotional when progress was not shown. I would let the time-lapse film roll and I would walk away from my emotional investment in the project. It they finished, they finished, and if the rains came and later the ground split to swallow the site whole, so be it. That enlightened attitude lasted for, oh… about a week.

Next I decided that I would choose an object. I would find something to focus on as I drove by that would serve as my barometer of progress. Something that, if changed or moved, would signify a significant move forward in the construction of this gas station thereby allowing me momentary cause for hope. Not all would be lost. I took the next several drives by to pick my object. I wanted something that would not be impossible to move as to prolong my anxiety, but at the same time I didn’t want to choose something easily moved without true progress taking place giving me false hope. After much deliberation I decided.

The object I chose was a stack of bricks in the drive path of one of the would-be gas pumps, pump 7 if I had to take a guess… not that the pumps had been installed. What made this stack of bricks- maybe 20 or 25 at the most- stick out to me was the yellow hose that was coiled around them, like a mother cobra protecting her brood of babies, or whatever the a collection of baby snakes is called…a mess? A pack???

For months I watched. I took trips across this planet. I had steaks in New York City. I enjoyed coffee in London. I took a boat across the North Sea to Belgium. I stood at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial and prayed to myself silently. I visited Poe’s home in Richmond. I saw the falls of Niagara. I had more steak in Atlanta. I watched baseball in Boston. I enjoyed lunch at Ken’s Diner in Hilo, Hawaii….TWICE. All during this time the bricks remained. The time crawled by. I finished 24 credit hours in school. I got married. I attended a funeral. My nation went to war. And still the bricks and their yellow serpentine protector never budged. I finally resigned myself to the fact that hope was dead and $37 for milk wasn’t such a bad deal.

The other day, I am happy to report, there came a great flurry of activity at the Quick Track. The car wash structure was built (added bonus, as I was not aware of their plans to erect one). The pumps were in stalled. The glass and the fixtures found their way into the store. And, best of all, the bricks, the yellow hose, even the pallet beneath, all made their move into the construction dumpster making it full, making it useful.

My wait is far from over I feel. There are still many things to do before I can pull into Pump 7 and fill up. Much wiring and painting must take place before I can head in for a draft-style diet coke. And before I can through down my first $10 bill to pay for a gallon of milk (competition will make it cheaper folks, not reasonable) I am sure they will have to install more fixtures. But the point is I saw progress.

Bet you were thinking there was a universal truth buried in here somewhere. Sorry to disappoint. I am just excited that hope is alive and well and I don’t have to marvel at the scene on TV in super fast motion while it benefits someone else. Tell you what, come over to my place when the gas station opens and I will treat you to a $5 ice cream sandwich. I love capitalism.

posted by Mike | 7:31 AM
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