Friday, December 24, 2010

climbing the hills of opportunity

Necessity is the mother of invention.

That may as well be the Mexican motto.  Emblazoned right beneath that rattlesnake-gnawing golden eagle on the prickly pear.

Mexico is a salvage society.  The common rap against America is that it is a throw-away society.  And, in some respects, that is true.

But there are still areas in America my grandfather would recognize.  Where appliances are kept running by cannibalizing parts from old machinery.  Where canning jars are valued for storing excess for use in lean times.  Where a dollar saved is seen as a virtue in itself.

Those parts of America have a spiritual kinship with Mexico. 

Mexico is not a land of plenty.  Historically, wealth tended to be amassed amongst an elite.  Those days are changing.  Mexico is growing a middle class.  Haltingly.  But it is growing.

But that does not change the fact that most Mexicans have had to learn to do with what was at hand.  And that is often not much.

Anyone who reads Mexican blogs regularly knows the litany.  Electrical junction boxes that look as if Rube Goldberg had been drinking.  Ladders built out of discarded wood scraps and reused nails.  Scooters made of recycled parts.

But just like on a Walla Walla farm, it always seems to work out in the end.  Maybe that is why my neighbors can be optimistic when trouble befalls them.  They will tack something together -- and it will work.

Maybe I have been learning from them, but I felt just a little more Mexican yesterday.

The ceilings in my place are about ten feet tall.  Designed to allow tropical heat to rise and then disperse through ventilation holes in the walls.

They are also quite attractive.  Until you need to reach the ceiling.

My main bathroom light fixture is on the ceiling.  As they are wont to do, the light bulb in that fixture gave up the ghost just when I needed to use the facility -- in the night.

No problem, said I.  I have dealt with similar problems in Oregon.

I looked for the step ladder.  I do not have one.

I tried a kitchen chair.  If I had the arms of Wilt Chamberlain, I might have reached the light.  But I have stubby Scottish arms more akin to those found on Tyrannosaurus rex.

I had one last hope.  One of the breakfast bar stools (pictured above; what you cannot see is the ceiling).  It was about the right height.  And it worked perfectly -- if I stretched and stood on my good left foot and used my left arm to hold my balance.

While getting off of the stool, I realized it was not the best climbing tool -- because it started to tip over.  Something about narrow wheel base (if it were a car).  But, I am becoming Mexican.  I merely leaned forward and tipped toward the shower where I could grab the tiled edge.

And all was well.  No splat on the floor.  No reinjured right ankle.  And the light worked.

It did not look elegant.  But everything turned out well in the end.

I am now ready for my next adventure.

Maybe something like this.


Tancho said...

You are suppose to get wiser as you get older is the old saying....
Another one, is bones of the old heal not...
Your mind still thinks that you are a teenager my friend, take it easy.
I find myself thinking I can do a lot more than I should.

And the best saying, The right tool for the right job, invest in a 6 or 8 ft step ladder.
Merry Christmas.

Steve Cotton said...

Tancho -- We do what we must. I suspect a photograph of me changing the light bulb would have looked very similar to my neighbors hoisting their wardrobe. But your point is well taken.

Anonymous said...

That's what we call "mexicanadas" that is when you try to fix or repair something using whatever you have at hand.

Anonymous said...

Walla Walla farm? Thank you for the homage.

On that farm we had an old cab-over flat-bed we used for the trap wagon. All that worked on it was the flat-bed which held diesel and gas tanks, and several drums of grease. The steering wheel could turn, and the tires went round when inflated.

My uncle got me to help him move the beast from the long high hill down to the barn, which meant he had to pull the thing with a truck down this long, steep hill. I was designated trap wagon skinner. Which was a trick since the thing had no breaks. So my uncle simply put it in its lowest gear, had me stand on the running board, reaching through the driver's window to steer the thing. His advice to me was this: "Johnny, if for some reason the thing gets loose and starts crashing down the hill, jump!

Good advice in general, but to my left, which was the only jumping spot, was an ancient split-post barbed-wire fence.

This was a normal sort of predicament on the farm -- make it work, or find yourself dangling between the rock and the hard place.

I have no doubt that this rustic logic still prevails in the back hills of Smith Springs, far from the probing eyes of OSHA inspectors.

There is a certain intractability about certain of our human characters.


Mike Nickell and Cynthia Johnson said...

Hi Steve - Happy Holidays from Seattle!

Rick said...

Steve, great little tale of changing a light bulb.
History, wit and danger- who would have thought.

When I'm in Mexico I prefer the danger of staring into the eyes of a brown eyed beauty although that can also lead to serious injury.

Feliz Navidad

Gloria said...

Hi Steve! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you. Enjoy and stay safe and in good health.

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- Or, in my case, at foot.

ANM -- You saw yourself. You were correct. Thanks for the story.

Mike and Cynthia -- Merry Christmas to the two of you, as well.

Rick -- Danger comes in all sorts of packages down here. That is what makes it so interesting. Its unpredictability.

Gloria -- Thank you. I hope you have a very special Christmas, as well.