Sidewalk Ghosts / Interview 501: “The Plumberman”

The Plumberman

There is genuine intent in his eyes; an obvious interest
that literally stops me in my tracks.

I stand at the base of our Operation-365 flagpole, raising our colors on this summer day. 365-rs I call us as we gather our army of real people. The silent majority, you and I. Everyday people living everyday lives. Real people with real problems. Real people with real successes. Real people with real desire to do their part in bettering the world.

“We are We” we profess as we lift our heads, and minds, in considering the motivations driving the actions of others. “We are We”—we open our mouths as active participants in the day-to-day function of taking care of our responsibilities. “We are We”—we interact with and observe each other while doing our best to listen to our inner voice, all the while leaving our footprint in our every action. Navigating over, and through, the shadows of others. Resounding thunderstorms of anger and rage unbalance us. Gentle mists of kindness and acknowledgement settle us. All the while absorbing the invisible turbulence of the social world we live in.

Every second of every year we open and close our eyes to life as it passes in front of our very faces; filling ourselves with the breaths of influence the world drafts in our direction. Like spiritual lungs our internal value systems constrict and relax as we breathe in, and out, the pressure of the words and deeds of others. Some days inspire, others, not quite. But, for those of us willing to put our fears aside, even just for an instant… For those of us wanting to in embrace the simple notion that our blood runs a similar red, then perhaps every interaction can be written to good reason and the results empowering: The growth of empathy toward our fellow-man.

I did not get a chance to photograph him. Not even to let him know of his impact on me this day. Yet to not write of his example would be a disservice to the few minutes we spent sharing time in parking lot number 9.

I’ll just call him “the plumber”; the lone man in an almost empty parking lot, lunching at 7:45am, taking a break from his 3am job start. A remarkable example, he validates the results a well-adjusted life outlook can have upon us all.

“Good morning!” he says as I dig through my pockets for meter change. It’s not that I’m caught off guard, there are many mornings that I receive such a gesture, and I’m sure most of us happily exchange passing “hellos” as part of our habits of politeness. That in itself is cause for applause and a healing power far beyond our realization.

But this is more. There is genuine intent in his eyes; an obvious interest that literally stops me in my tracks. Yes, Mr. 365 has been upstaged, and oh, how wonderful it is.

I lean against my car. No rush needed, and happily so, I’m early for my meeting. For about 20 minutes we break bread, speaking of culture and society, mixed with a little insight from life and history. Two men. Complete strangers, talking on unified ground. Two individuals from absolute different backgrounds, strangers to each other, conversing on the grandest of subjects: society and our place in it.

My well is full and the day is only beginning, at least for me. I have not been at it since 3am. Our plumber friend has once again given us convincing proof to support our thesis of “We.”

In a city of millions. In a landscape of endless streets and horizons filled with parking lots, I have found an oasis. A watering hole with the freshest of drink. A place, as unexpected as it is, where my most important reservoir has been filled again: My faith in fellow-man.

So to The Plumber we rise in appreciation. Thank you for the lesson my good friend.

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