Friday, February 6, 2009

Captain Karma Comes A Callin'

A wise friend (and, for all I know, avid Jim Croce fan) once paraphrased those words to live by: “ya don’t tug on Superman’s cape, ya don’t spit into the wind, ya don’t tug the mask off that ol’ Lone Ranger, and . . .” with his own caution. “Always answer the door when Captain Karma comes a callin’.” Easier said than done. What’s this guy look like? How do I know it’s not just another JW in a fancy cape. If I open the door to another bag of stale chips or almond chocolate bars, I think I’ll explode. If I had a swimming pool that needed cleaning, I’ll sure call you first. Sorry, no tax receipt, no ticky. In short, we’re pretty much conditioned to slam that door in the face of just about anybody that rings the bell.

And so as I fired up the snow blower on what, to all appearances was not a particularly auspicious, winter morning, I was not really prepared to entertain such a guest. Two, three inches at most; should be able to blast through this in top gear and get in before the coffee cools. Driveway, done. City walkway – all the way to the corner (self-absorbed slugs who drop their citizenly duty, take note), done. A little polish off of our own sidewalk . . . Oops, just about dropped the ball on that one! Toss the newspaper safely out of the way onto the front porch; mark that extension cord, frozen in place ‘til Spring – and WHANG!

Blue smoke, usually the exclusive province of the machine itself, redoubled as its owner added to the column. Nothing stops a blower in its tracks like a good, hefty, mid-week edition of the Globe & Mail. Momentarily at a loss, I poke my head around to the business end and confirm that, yep, a little tattered and twisted but otherwise wedged in tact was Wednesday’s best (bearing out my fear that I’d carefully rescued yesterday’s paper) mid-maw as it were.

Years of anger management (teaching, not taking – thank you very much!) reminded me to belly breathe, hit the ‘pause button’ (as if that would get the *&%@! Globe out of the blower!), put an optimistic construction on events (‘could have been the extension cord’ seemed a bit limp at this point). And thus, as the mailman (and it was a man) strode up the driveway with his sunny greeting of how much he appreciated a clean path, I responded in kind with an “it’s the least I can do” – and went back to work with the sledge, crow bar, and sotto voce curses. It was some time before my mind (and the smoke) cleared sufficient to register that just maybe that wasn’t the mail man after all. Maybe that was CK in a mad bomber hat (the guy is a master of disguise).

Now the parallel tale, of course, is the Lenten theme at St. James this year. Let me get this right: something about consumerism, loving the planet, caring for our non-renewable resources. For some time, heeding the refrain that the church website is such a wonderful tool for communicating with the parish, for sharing life at St. James with those that can’t attend on a regular basis (Hmmm?), for keeping folks current with bulletin and community news, coming events and music lists (well, those will come, I just know it), the scribe and faithful sidekick have connived and plotted, pushed and (digitally) published this little vehicle in every way possible to save a tree here and a pinch of Xerox powder there. But alas, the drafts of drafts, the photocopies of photocopies, the pink, purple, and puce ‘eye catching inserts’, the printed reminders to check the website for details – just keep a rollin’ off the press. The direct emails, weekly updates, the attempts at ‘reverse marketing’ (“if you want to receive a hard copy of . . .”) have fallen on deaf ears. Ah, but Captain Karma hears!

Feeling ever the hypocrite, I recall my rants about inserts, flyers, ad mail, and unsolicited newsprint – dropped disdainfully into the recycle bin between the mail box and the house, unread, unwanted, resented; as I pull a shred of “Leafs lose another one” out of the blower’s rotors. As I untwist the plastic wrapper from the drive shaft, I cast mind back to the (now hollow) advocacy to ‘read online’; the barely controlled telephone exchanges with the London Free Press, censuring them for delivering ‘complimentary copies’ of their ‘illiterate rag’ to our house. Tentatively tweaking the clutch to expel the final few remnants of Rex’s column onto my neighbour’s snow bank, I shudder to remember the carefully lettered warnings taped to mail box cautioning anyone who might challenge to “save a tree – leave no junk mail here!”. How many times does the message need to be delivered? How much clearer can CK be? P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E W-H-A-T Y-O-U P-R-E-A-C-H. Come to think of it, that’s kinda catchy – even has that kind of churchy feel to it. Hmm. Wonder if there’s an application of that up on the hill. Or do we have to wait for a visit from CK? Wonder what the liturgical equivalent is of a Globe stuffed up your rotor?
David Howard

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