This Sucker Ain't Gonna Work No More !
“This sucker ain’t gonna work no more”
The above laconic expression was not judgmental. It was the considered opinion of a gifted and licensed electrician. He was refering to the overhead garage door opener motor, at our condo complex in Amherst, N.Y. A massive thunderstorm had blown through the area on the previous evening. Thor, God of Thunder, had hurled many a lightning bolt at the earth throughout the event. One of those powerful streams of pure electrical energy had touched down on a metal pole adjacent to the garage complex. The current had surged across the interior electrical lines causing various levels of mechanical and electrical mayhem.
The quiet of the morning after always make you wonder at the raw physical power that had coursed across the WNY environs the night before. We tried, without luck, to enter our garage to retrieve the family vehicle. Of course the professionals, Buffalo Overhead Door who had installed all of the garage doors and made a tidy sum from all of us, were unavailable to help us. “They were too busy” they said. Okay, that is what we will say when next we need any mechanical services in the future. My wife browsed the white pages and called a few companies. A small mechanical repair company, Adams Door Company, said they would send a man right over, bless their hearts.
The young and capable technician pored over the aging motor like a heart surgeon inspecting that delicate organ. He narrated his motions to me as he completed them. I am crossing circuit A to extension B and so on. I didn’t want to dissuade his narrative, but politely informed him that I had no idea what he was talking about. “It is all Greek to me,” I said.
“Funny you should say that,” he grinned. My Grandparents were Greek immigrants who settled here in Buffalo. Like most off handed comments, that prompted a discussion. We talked of how hard the early Greek immigrants had worked to make it here in America. I had known many of these industrious individuals in meetings along the political circuit for years.
After an hour of diligent inspection, the young lad turned to me and uttered the fatal prognosis. “This sucker just ain’t gonna work no more.” Further discussion elicited the proposal that he could replace the entire motor, in just forty minutes, for $340.
“Sold,” I said. When you are in an emergency and need a service, you pay whatever they ask. The young lad wasn’t wearing the dark gloves and Balaclava mask that some of these rascals wear when they have you up against it, so I acceded to his suggestion. And I no longer get annoyed at machines that break or weather that inconveniences us. Like the venerable King Canute of legend, I have found that ordering the tide to cease is somewhat less than effective and only leads to frustration. I was mindful of those poor souls who use their foot to strike a broken car or throw an appliance against the wall. It produces nothing but a sore foot or a broken clock. I suppose, like breaking a golf club over your knee after a bad shot, it can relieve some of the tension. I used to rationalize that the damn club was a factory defect anyways. Maybe they did too.
As advertised, the capable technician installed and made the entire apparatus a functioning whole in just under the forty minutes estimate. We paid him and added a fiver for coffee and sent him on his way. He has also done some good amount of business with a few of the neighbors while he was fixing our motor. Good for him. Later, we sent in a positive evaluation of the lad and his performance to the company’s web site. I always believe in positively reinforcing the performance of capable people. There aren’t enough of them in this world. Like all such experiences, we logged it in as “another day in the life of” and went about our business. But, it got me thinking.
Like the aging motor in our garage, I had some wear and tear on me from a lifetime of bobbing and weaving in the political arena. And our neighbors around us are the same. Almost all of us are “over thirty nine” and enjoying the mellowed-out golden years of our lives. Behind and around us lay strewn the detritus of lives well and truly lived.
Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are scattered through out the country. The reminders of books, written, awards earned and the whole rota of our accomplishments lay stored now in basements and garages, surfacing only in treasured flights of reverie. Or even more vividly surfacing when the top comes off the Jameson’s bottle. What we are and were will soon be forgotten, but for the casual remembrance of a loved one now growing. Our memories will emerge when family is telling a story, like citing a reference to a favored historical work.
There were times, when many of us have been told, in a more erudite fashion, that “this sucker ain’t gonna work no more.” The esteemed medical technician might be referring to a knee or a shoulder or some other body part than can be repaired or replaced. The things that the medical world can do now are truly amazing. The repairs are effected and then we go on for another term of life until accident, age or infirmity threatens us again.
It is then, usually in a nursing home, emergency room or other “old people’s warehouse” that we get the final pronouncement of “this sucker just ain’t gonna work now more.” There is not yet any means of escaping this final diagnosis.
And even in the final resting place for most of us, some few try to be remembered for who and what they were by etching deeply in stone monuments the names and dates of the times of their life’s passing. But like many of the old graveyards we have visited, the etchings soon wear away with time and weather, like footprints in the sand of the beach. Time and tide wash them away so others can make their mark.
Aging gives one a perspicacity that is not found in the young. I think of the many urgent situations and minor crises that seemed so important to me in years past. It was silly of me to waste energy on them. But that knowledge didn’t come to me until many years later.
And until I get the final pronouncement by Physician or coroner that “this sucker ain’t gonna work any more,” I will try to enjoy what years I have left to me in a more patient and contemplative manner. We were all promised a mortal end at birth. And there is no avoiding that pronouncement.
Joseph Xavier Martin