Ponder this:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Success story: Jack M

I arrived at work to see Jack M sitting outside the entrance door reading the local newspaper, wearing a yellow shirt.  
"G'morning, Jack. Are you waiting to get inside?" I asked, unlocking the door.
"No, not really. I'm just catching up on the local news. I was out of town last week. I'll be in with some paperwork for you in a little while."
"Okay," I smiled, and turned to go inside.
"You aren't wearing your yellow shirt," he said. "We don't match. I'll have to go home and change."
The last time we had met, he and I had been wearing identical pale yellow moleskin shirts. I turned back to face him, looked down at the top I wore, black with metallic gold print. 
"Yes, you should," I said. "Try to find something with gold in it," and we grinned at each other.

Jack is an interesting man. In physical appearance, he is arresting because of his height and angularity. Jack's hair is nearly colorless, his eyes deepset pale blue, his gaze hawklike. He makes me think of a present day incarnation of the fictional Ichabod Crane.

Ichabod Crane by Michael Kenny

"The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield."  ~The Legend of Sleepy HollowWashington Irving
Like Irving's Crane, Jack taught in the local elementary school. Retired now from teaching, he  indulges his talent and skill as a carpenter. He is passionate about fidelity to historical construction detail. His work is slow and painstaking but the product . . . a Doric porch column, say, with multiple separate parts for the base and for the capital, just as it would have been made hundreds of years ago . . . is a thing of pure and simple[-looking] beauty.  Like many artisan carpenters of my acquaintance Jack owns fewer than the ten fingers with which he was born, half of one having been sacrificed at his saw table. 

Jack speaks softly and expresses himself with perfect clarity, pausing to find the exact word. Conversing with him is verbal correspondence, no words wasted, each word full of weight. . . not to say that the man's lacking in humor.  I have in one of my files his handwritten request for "an extension of a certificate of appriateness appropriateness," with a small note slanting off above it: "Great spelling bee word!" 

When I met Jack I didn't like him. He frightened me. He was acerbic and impatient, and quite obviously furious with Then Boss.  His eyebrows alternated between one raised into his hairline and both furrowed down to his eyelashes. His speaking mouth was downturned and opened barely enough to let out his complaints. His closed mouth was tautly pulled toward his ear in distrust and disbelief.  In the several years since then, Jack and I have become friends. He has shared with me photos of his workshop and his works in progress, described the process to me; I have shared with him photos of sky. 
He's one of my success stories.  

One afternoon, Jack reenacted for me The Felon During Small Pond Governing Body Meeting.  Pretzeling his overlong parts into a semblance of The Felon's tiny stature, he squirmed in my guest chair until he was sitting on the left side of his hip, his right leg crossed high over his left.  "It's as if he's trying to moon the public," Jack said, his right buttock aimed at me like an offensive weapon.
We've come to be able to communicate in ways that neither of us could be quoted for ill intention, using facial expression (or its lack) to make our meaning clear to each other.  

Looking over the newspaper at me that morning, Jack said, "Quite an interesting letter to the editor here..."
"Yes! Wasn't that interesting!" I said. "Mm."
"When I watch the public meetings on public access, it goes so smoothly that it's clear there's been . . . conversation prior to the meetings."
"Yessss," I said.
"But of course, you want them to be able to..."
"...chat," I said, smiling pursy-lipped.
"Chat," he answered, expressionless except for those eyebrows, which alternated in upward twitches.
"...law requires public bodies to give advance notice of their meetings.  
"A gathering may constitute a 'meeting' even if a public body takes no formal action -- it applies to any gathering where a quorum is present to discuss or deal with a matter of public business, regardless of what the gathering is called."                             ~Open Meetings Law


Carolynn Anctil said...

He sounds like a gem. Those tough nuts can be the most tasty when they open up to reveal their soft insides.

Jinksy said...

I see your communictions skills are of the best order, never mind his...

Barb said...

Oh, here you are...
I liked the nuances in this description. I can picture Jack in my mind. When communication can proceed nonverbally, I think that means you've connected on a deeper level. Hope you're feeling well again.

June said...

Carolynn, he was kind of a tough nut to crack. I feel pretty honored that we've become friends.

Jinksy, thanks. Takes one to know one, doesn't it?

Barb, I'm fine. All better. The reservoir walk with Jo put the nail in the bronchitis' coffin...all that deep breathing and panting and wheezing got most of the last of it loosened up and OUT. You never realize how nice it is to breathe until you can't!

Susan said...

What an interesting post. Now that I'm our of the public workforce, I really miss knowing folks like Jack. Sounds like quite a card. I do so like your style of writing, by the way. Susan

Anonymous said...

Clearly, I could read about this guy all day if it was you describing him. I found myself looking up a word -- even!

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Jack sounds like an interesting guy, June... There are so many people in this world who are just a little different... Why are we afraid of them???? Guess it's just human nature... BUT these 'different' people are usually really neat people --if we just try to get to know them...

By the way, my Bluebirds have returned this morning and are reclaiming the nest ---as of NOW... ha... It's fun to watch them.

Bibi said...

I think this is one of my favorite blog entries of yours !

And, Abraham, I want to know which word you looked up :)

Friko said...

you and Jack, possibly two of a kind?
I absolutely love the way you write; I am sure I've said it before, but I'll say it again. If I weren't following you already, I'd do it again. Jack comes off the page, fully formed, immediately recognisable and the understanding between the two of you needs no more words than the few you have used to be clearly visible.

June said...

Well, gosh...gee, thanks, all!

Susan, imagine that! I have a "style of writing"! When I started this blog, I wondered if I would develop anything like a consistent style, so your comment makes me very happy. Yes, the people! The people are so much fun to get to know.

Mr. Lincoln, high praise indeed. Thank you.

Bibi, I'm betting it was "cognomen," for which I can take no credit, since I had to look it up too.

Friko, I am just glowing. Thank you.

June said...

Betsy, it wasn't his "differentness" that scared me. It was his anger. I don't do well with anger. I do better now than formerly, since I've learned not to take it personally so much as I used to.

SO glad your bluebirds are moving in! Aren't they just blindingly blue?

Joe Todd said...

For today " I'm just well mixed" Hope you have a great week