Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Furnace and Soul tuneup

Last week I called in the Gas company for a routine maintenance of the Fireplace and the Furnace. I don't really believe the 15 minutes, 3 screws, one blowing into a nozzle, and a glance at the CO meter really merited 265 dollars.

I didn't realize though I was getting more than just that, as the dude also had a mission to show me the Way, the one with the capital W. I had never been approached by an evangelizing type, especially not a 190cm (6'4") 80kg (200lb) furnace tuneup impersonator.

Thanks to a basically maintenance-free machine and the power-screwdriver, his formal task took 12 or so minutes. The flames were restored to the pilots, the burners were inspected, and the heat of the hades was flowing in my house once again. But alas, heaven awaited, and I was getting more than the bargained-for service. Taking advantage of my sleepy crack-of-dawn stooper (at 9 am), the maintenance man transformed himself into a paver of the path to glory. He took a look at the book on my coffee table ("Persepolis", a graphic novel that basically encapsulates my Iran during my childhood give or take a gender).

"Hey what book's this?" He asked curiously, though still in the Furnace fixer tone of voice.

"It's a book about Iran..." I said, preparing to explain my affinity for the book, though I was conflicted. After all, I was sure he could care less about all the nuance I was about to unleash. What I didn't expect was to be out-drawn on the oratory front.

My half sentence lingered in the air only a moment, and then came his response. His voice suddenly had changed to a semiwhisper deep voice, degaussed of all the crispness of early-morning man-to-man talk, and airbrushed into a sacred-wanna-be monotone.

"You know what book I think is magnificent?..." He asked, and then answered ad-infinitum himself. He told me about this book that showed him the path through the depths of despair, and of arrival at the doors of salvation. He quoted me chapter and verse of all that stands between me and heaven.

after about a 5 or so minutes, he asked me if I had heard of the Bible. He didn't expect me to say I had actually read it. The gauzy voice screeched to a halt and the soft melodic sounds momentarily lapsed as he asked in the furnace-man voice " You've read the bible? Where are you? Do you believe?"

I am very comfortable in my belief, I said, though others may not agree.

He blinked, his mind reaching to flip the mental tape for the b-side, turned on the pseudo angelo-acoustics and began into another few minutes of how his path had saved him, and how his job puts him in front of many people who don't see the way. He told me about his hands being magical creations, about evolution being a falacy of the devil, of evil blinding us to the true path, and how easy it is to go to heaven.

In the 20 or so minutes that he continued with his monologue, I had plenty of time to ponder things.

Of all the permutations, I chose to think that he was genuinely interested in sharing his bliss with me. As such, I should be thankful for his efforts even though, as I wanted to impart on him, some people need to learn the alphabet while others are already reading. I also wanted to ask him about his compunction to spread this word and whether he was doing it to feel better about himself?

In the absence of an entrypoint to this one-sided conversation (uni-versation), I also understood the unfortunate thing: there was no mutual acceptance here. There was no dialogue about shared understanding. His monologue only saw one path to one truth, and a very literal one at that. Eventually, he ran out of what he had practiced to preach(and/or the next appointment loomed, or he got tired of my quiet nodding), and chalked it up to another practice run for the next time.

I thanked him for his work and his words, and congratulated him on finding his own path and that may others find their paths too. His "does not compute" frown momentarily flashed, followed by his non haloey bluecollar tone telling me You Bet., and off he was to the next furnace appointment to salvage another person from the worldly cold and their souls from otherwordly peril.

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