Tuesday, July 5, 2011

the tank truck guy

Every three years out here the septic tank
fills up with "stuff" and rainwater seepage.
I phone the tank truck guy for unholy pumping.
He shows up, sitting high on the seat unsmiling.
He backs in the vehicle, jumps out, and does things
with levers and gadgets and hoses. Puts on his gloves.
The roots of his profession have gone down deep,
have become him -- this old guy is an artisan
of awful pumping. His eyes are beady and sure.
You see the same thing in electricians, plumbers,
carpenters, whatever. What they do becomes them.
I would imagine that holds true for the gentler arts --
what one gets too good at disposes of uncertainty.
No more room left for equivocal fumes, for doubt.

It's February and snow and ice cover the yard.
We slide off the concrete lid and he tells me
about roots, as if whispering esoteric knowledge.
He looks me up and down, sort of condescendingly.
As if I'd been born that morning and knew nothing.
But if it gives him meaning, that's okay with me.
I'll stand with a stupid look on my face, play the role.

I've always thought it was better to know a lot of stuff
half-assed than to become an expert lost in self-regard.

He scrapes his wrist and it bleeds. I go for disinfectant
and a clean wet cloth and a bandage. I fix him up.
He seems slightly crestfallen to have been wounded.

Afterwards, I pay him and he pulls out of the drive.
A few minutes later, here he comes back walking.
He drove the tanker off the side of the gravel road.
He was trying to radio in and took his eyes off the ice.
I offered to let him wait in my warm house for a wrecker.
I offered to pour him a cup of coffee. No to both things.
He'd just wait by the side of the road for an hour or so.

When an expert miscalculates his one big thing, the world sucks.

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