Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Other Kind of Baptist, or, All I Really Wanted was to Play with Power Tools

My church sent some folks down to Richmond to work on houses with other members of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. I was assigned to a crew that was building a wheelchair ramp. The crew leader was a big, stocky man with a mustache. His wife had a puffy dome of permed hair. She was the only other female on that crew, and she was trouble. She was the other kind of Baptist.

"I just can't believe the work these men are doing," she said to me. "I wouldn't know the first place to start with one of these tools. I'm so glad you're here. We girls have to stick together!"

"Uh-huh," I said, picking up a rotary saw.

"Ouisi, you put that down and go fetch me four eight-foot four-by-fours," her husband barked. She batted her eyes at him.

Later in the day, the chainsaw blade broke.

"Ouisi and I'll go get a new one!" she said. "We're not good for anything around here anyway." We rode to Lowe's in her pickup truck.

"What brand saw is it for?" the sales associate asked.

"Oh, no!" she said. "I didn't know that mattered. Ouisi, we have to go back and ask what brand saw it is."

"It's a Stihl," I said.

"What's the model number?" the sales associate asked.

"MS 200," I said. We rode back with the blade, and sat on the grass to eat lunch.

"Ouisi, what do you do?" the crew leader asked.

"I'm studying theology at Marymount University up in Arlington," I said. He frowned.

"That's the wrong way to do things," he said. "God is supposed to be in your heart, not in your head." The door opened, and the home owner shuffled out onto the top step. He greeted us, and told us how the cartilage in his hips was degrading, and the doctors said he'd be wheelchair-bound within a year.

"That's some fancy cane!" I said. He lifted it up for us to see: NASCAR vehicles and bikini-clad babes were decopauged all over it. "I took the glass from a car windshield," he said, "and painted it with Storm from the X-Men. It's mounted in my living room."

I didn't get to see it, but in my mind that car windshield looks like this.

"That's awesome," I said.

Rainclouds began to roll in the next day. I continued lugging lumber back and forth across the yard. The crew leader brought out a nail gun and belt sander and handed them to the smallest person on the crew, a twiggy guy who was eager to make his mark on the project.

"Ouisi, fetch me two more of them ten-foot two-by-sixes!" the crew leader barked. I carried them over. "Hey, slow down!" he shouted at the guy with the nail gun. "You're tipping the gun! Here, you pull all those out again." He handed a hammer to the guy, then turned to me.

"Thanks, sweetie," he said.

"Sure thing, sugar," I said. He froze, glared at me for a moment, then turned away. An hour later, he looked up at the sky, looked at me, and said,

"We need to work faster. Ouisi, you get on that table saw. Hey, you! Slow down; you're going to break my belt sander!" He marched away. I took my station on the table saw. Success.

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