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Archive for the month “March, 2012”

The Blind Man Can See!

It was renewal day at my local Secretary of State’s office.  Yes, it was time to renew my drivers license.  It was the year I had to go in. No more mailing in the form with my check. In a few days I was to turn the big 5-0! I was already a bit uneasy about hitting such a milestone. Suddenly it was my turn. The lady wanted me to take their basic eye examination. “Just press your head firmly on the top and read the middle row”, she said. I pressed my forehead against the top headrest of the machine and looked into the little eye piece. As I tried to read the letters in the row things were pretty blurry. A, C, I started slowly, not quite sure if I was correct. Funny how the letters in a blurry focus can start looking alike. Take it slow I thought as I tried to concentrate. It was like my experience in taking tests of years gone by. Receiving the test, I tried to answer the questions I knew without thought. If I skipped the first five or six questions panic would set in. Maybe I don’t know any of them. After relaxing and going back over the questions suddenly the answers would come. Could the answers start coming on this test too?

Eye Exam

I probably should have taken the hint that I would struggle. I remember years ago passing the eye exam for my license but feeling very fortunate. Thinking when I was done, man, this test isn’t easy. Feeling like five or six of my answers were good educated guesses. There was also the warning signals at home. Times my son would be telling me the breaking news on ESPN and being in total awe wondering where he got his information. “I was reading it at the bottom of the screen”, he said. Oh yes, it did look like something was scrolling down there. I also remember my troubles on the golf course. As if playing the game of golf was not hard enough, seeing the ball was getting almost laughable. I’d hit the ball and try to pick it up. Unfortunately I rarely did. I’d end up getting the person I was playing with to stand behind me as I hit. Ting, my driver would sound as it made contact with the ball. A quick look up and of course I saw nothing. Out of the corner of my eye I’d watch my friend and the direction his head would go. If he looked straight ahead it was a good sign. If he started looking to the left or right I knew my shot was in trouble. Talk about a sad way to play golf. I guess I didn’t mind so much not seeing the bad shots, but not seeing the few good ones I had was really disappointing. One time I hit a shot. It felt good and I think I caught a glimpse of it going toward the green. Of course I lost it soon after. My friend was telling me in great detail what had happened. “Your ball hit the rake that is standing up in the sand trap”, he told me. I was in doubt until we got up to my ball and I discovered the rake he was talking about and my ball nestled nearby. I remember hitting balls solid and the quick glance to my partner behind me. His head was looking straight ahead! “Nice shot”, he’d say. If the hole was a par 3 walking up and seeing my ball on the green was somewhat of a thrill. How I wished I had seen the flight of the ball!

I guess I always took pride in not wearing glasses. I’d hear compliments like “wow, you mean you have never worn glasses”?
“Nope, never” I’d say feeling good about myself like I was a conquering hero. My sister needed glasses at a young age and some of my good friends did too. Back then glasses were not made for appearance. The black rims with the big lens were the order of the day. Kids were extremely cruel to other kids wearing glasses it seemed. The term four eyes was used constantly. Luckily for me my eyes were very good back then. I passed eye tests with flying colors numerous times. I took pride in the fact I didn’t need glasses! No four eyes for me!

The eye test was not getting easier. If anything, it was getting harder. Somehow a miracle of miracles happened. I actually got 4 in a row right! After that it was all downhill and I think I missed 5 or 6 in a row. “No, No, No”, the examiner was saying. Shaking her head as she checked a box and wrote on my card. The box she checked was a request for an eye exam. She explained that I would need to see an eye doctor before I could take the test again. Just like that it was over, I had failed.

Feeling horribly depressed I called an eye doctor’s office and was lucky enough to get an appointment that very day! “So, I hear you didn’t pass the eye exam for your drivers license eh? Well, let’s just take a look and see what the problem is”. It was the doctor in his white smock. He was a very friendly man with what I perceived a very helpful spirit. After putting me through extensive testing and asking me tons of questions about which view is clearer he was almost done. It was amazing to me how he made my vision so good by just making switches in lenses on his eye machine he had me looking through. The last thing he did was dilate my eyes so he could look in back of them. Everything looked fine and the order for my new glasses was issued.

About a week later I received a call, my glasses were in! The doctor warned me when I picked up the glasses that it will be a little strange for awhile because I needed a bifocal lens also. He said that while working on the computer it would probably be better to not use the glasses. My real problem was with longer distances. “A little strange” wasn’t strong enough to describe how I felt when I first put those glasses on. Although my vision seemed much more clearer my equilibrium was almost non existent. I felt like I was on a hill and if I stepped I’d fall off. I walked very carefully out of his office. Negotiating the stairs was a major challenge. Luckily I made it in one piece without falling. I felt like I was learning to walk all over again!

Driving around with my new glasses on was an amazing experience! I had accepted my bad vision as the way it was supposed to be. Now I was seeing signs from a quarter of a mile away and reading them! Those same signs would only have been read within 40 or 50 feet without the glasses. I was so amazed with my “new vision”! I couldn’t believe how much of the world I had been missing. It reminded me of The Wizard of Oz when they went from black and white to color! With my new glasses on I easily passed the drivers license eye exam. I was reading every line and could read the fine print too!

With my new glasses I wasn’t having any trouble seeing my golf ball. I’m sure I could have seen 250 yard drives now! Unfortunately I was almost missing the ball. Constantly the ball was coming off the heel of the club. Finally after about 3 holes of this I took the glasses off and my game quickly improved. Back to “please stand behind me when I hit this”. I noticed the same thing in softball. Although I could see clearer with the glasses, my depth perception was way off. I decided to wear the glasses for an hour or two a day and get used to them gradually. After awhile my steps became steadier and my depth perception began improving.

Funny how things change through the years. When a company wants to portray a smart person in their advertisements that person is usually wearing glasses! I’ve noticed investment firms using the glasses look to portray braininess! I guess the thinking is that those people did so much reading that naturally it had a negative effect on their eyes! The knowledge that they had stored though had to be enormous!

Now I’m comfortable doing everything with my glasses on! When I golf, play basketball or softball I wouldn’t think of not wearing my glasses! I see so much clearer and now that my eyes have adjusted to them, I sometimes forget I have them on! I realize that it was just silly pride that kept me from seeing clearly all of those years. In the spiritual realm silly pride can keep us from seeing clearly too. We get to a point where we are accustomed to our blurry vision and assume that it is how it’s supposed to be. When we humble ourselves and seek his guidance, God will open our eyes to a whole new way of living, thinking and seeing! The song Amazing Grace says “was blind, but now I see”. Of course it is talking about the difference between life without God and life with him. However, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. As I drive around in my car with my glasses on, sometimes I’ll raise the glasses and try to read the signs without them. I’ll see all of the blurred letters and the clouded images. Then I slide the glasses back over my eyes. Clear and crisp as a crystal from a great distance away! What a difference! I’m reminded where I was and where I am! The meaning of that songs lyrics seem so much clearer now!

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The Contract

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

I’ve got a contract with the Lord
that with his blood he signed
He offered it to all of us
yet it’s one of a kind

I examined it with a fine toothed comb
A lot of time was spent
to try to find restrictions
Where was all the fine print?

It promised me eternal life,
a heavenly home I’d win
if I just opened up my heart
and let the Savior in

Now logically I’ve been told
I’d have to earn my way
No one in their right mind
would give it all away

Yet the contract says, whosoever will,
that has to include me
It says it is a gift from God
and it’s absolutely free

Now I’ve accepted his free gift
and my life has changed, no doubt
I cannot work salvation in
but I certainly can work it out

There’s someone who is at your door
with his contract for you today
Will you accept his free gift
or send him on his way?

But God found fault with the
people and said: “The time is
coming, declares the Lord, when
I will make a new covenant with
the house of Israel and with the
house of Judah.

Hebrews 8:8

Paying the Price for ?

A price to pay

Last night I went to the gym. As I was driving home I realized that I didn’t have my membership identification card. I frantically called the place just as they were closing. The guy put me on hold and came back a few minutes later with news that he wasn’t able to find my I.D. I will go back when they open and re-trace my steps and hopefully find it. If not I will have to pay $25 for replacement costs. Replacing an I.D. is easy. You fill out a form,they take your picture, and you have a new I.D. Doesn’t seem like $25 worth of work.

Some things should be free

This experience has got me thinking about things that aren’t worth what we pay for them. Some things just don’t seem like we should be paying for them at all. Things like water for instance. Yet bottled water is the second most bought beverage behind pop. Another thing that bugs me is buying air at the gas station. Even though it is usually only 25 cents, if anything should be free it should be air!

Overpriced and still going strong

The following items seem overpriced and should be avoided if at all possible. College textbooks, theater popcorn, greeting cards, printer ink, razor blades, brand name clothing, event parking, ATM fees, hidden fees for investments (the ones you see as you scan your monthly account statement), weddings, funerals, and cigarettes (you can’t even die or kill yourself cheaply).

When you don’t get what you deserve

Years ago we hired a lawn service. Our next door neighbors lawn and ours comprised a golf course look. The problem was he had the nice fairway and we had the rough. One day the lawn service came by to spray their monthly chemicals and we weren’t home. The neighbor across the street told me that the guy sprayed the front yard and left. We were paying for both the front and the back yards. When I confronted the company about it they said that their guy couldn’t figure out how to get to the back yard. If our neighbor had not been paying attention, we would have never known that only half of the job was completed. After that inept service we decided to not renew and have never had their service again.

They think you won’t know

Another time we were taking advantage of a coupon deal from a local garage. Free tire balancing and rotation with the purchase of an oil change. When we got the car home we noticed that the tires were not rotated or balanced. The reason we could tell was that one tire on the back was very low going in. We noticed that the same tire was still low and it had not been rotated.  I have also been told that labor charges on cars are sometimes charged from the time the car is on the rack, not the amount of time your car is actually getting worked on!

The price of my time

We had an incident last year with an oil changing from a different company. We took the car in and the attendant looked over his schedule. “We can have you done in an hour”, he stated. It seemed like a long wait, but we decided we would walk to the local coffee place. After over an hour we came back and our car was still sitting where we parked it. We went to a store within walking distance and came back another hour later. Still our car was sitting right where we parked it.  At that point we were thinking about leaving.  However, after all of the time invested we decided to wait. We waited another hour until finally they pulled our car in. Ten minutes later we had our car back in maybe the longest wait for an oil change in history.  Afterwards the guy was trying to apologize as we were walking out the door. “Sorry about the wait”, he said. “We had a brake job that took more time than we thought and your car was delayed”.  No mention of a coupon for next time, nor a statement like “this one is on us”.  I was speechless as we left and decided never to give that place our business again!

A company actually outsmarted itself!

One time I think a company outsmarted itself! I discovered on a hot summer day that my windows would not go down. As you can imagine it was a major problem for a car whose air conditioner wasn’t working either. I took it into this business and three hours later I received a call. “Your wiring is all messed up. There are broken wires and tangled wires etc.” You are going to need a complete wiring overhaul. He quoted me a price of $525.00. I told him that I would pick up the car without repair. I headed over without hesitation and took the car home. Later I had to go to the store. I got so hot that instinctively I pushed on the button for the window. To my happy surprise the window went down. I tried the other windows and they all worked! I figure that the business must have repaired my wires (one might have become disconnected) and decided to charge me big time. The only thing that saved me was that I didn’t opt for their repair. At that point it was probably too late to undo what they did.

Here is my wallet

A couple of weeks ago I saw a commercial from a phone company. I don’t remember the name of the phone company, so the commercial failed.  I do remember  a mystery person taking a guys wallet and emptying it for expenses he owed a generic rival phone company.  It was filled with big bills and he took most of them! Actually taking is not the word I should use.  The victim was on the phone and just casually handed the mystery person his wallet.  He wasn’t surprised or startled at all, when he was handed an almost empty wallet back. We have become so conditioned to higher prices that we don’t flinch either.  We just figuratively hand over our wallets!

You will count the cost

You may wonder how you can avoid these expensive expenses?  The answer is you can’t avoid all of them.  There are times that you will need an item on the list or other expensive items I failed to mention.  You will need to pay a premium price!  You will pay it because you will have counted the cost and decided that having the item at that price is worthwhile.

God’s price wasn’t free

When Jesus came and died for our sins he made salvation free to us.  The free part creates a problem in our thinking, because of how we are conditioned. We are taught that if it is free it is cheap.  Yet, we have to realize that the price was not free!  Jesus paid an enormous price, his life.  The gift to us is free, like someone buying a mansion and telling you that they put it in your name!

He counted the cost and gave his gift anyway

Jesus fills in the question mark in my title because he paid the price for us!  We wonder at times, where is our money going? Jesus knew exactly what he was paying for!  He counted the cost and decided to pay it!  His gift is more valuable and precious than any gift we have or ever will receive! It is a gift we should embrace, accept, and be thankful for because it was bought with his blood.  Although the gift is free to us, it is very valuable, worth more than all of the money in the world!

Found: Missing I.D

As a footnote to this story I went back to the gym today and found my I.D.  I guess everything happens for a reason and the reason for my temporarily lost I.D  seems to be the story you just read!

Electric Football, A Good Vibration

I think I was 8 or 9 years old when I got my first electric football game. It was made by a company called Tudor and it came with players that were yellow and white. On the box it said “Plan your offensive and defensive strategies.” Now what sports nut kid like myself wouldn’t love that? The game also came with paint and a brush to actually make some nifty uniform colors. I didn’t paint any of my players. I think my sister one day painted a couple on the white team. Along with the paint there were stick on numbers that came on a wax type paper. The game included 2 goal posts that were to be pushed into holes right on the goal line. That’s right, the goal posts back then were located right on the goal line not 10 yards back like today. They were in the form of an H. On one end was a dial that was supposed to act as a game clock. I never used the dial and seriously doubt that it worked. I played the game until I was tired of it and then the game was over. There was a screw at one end that controlled the intensity of the vibration. To anyone not familiar with electric football the game was played on a vibrating field. With the control switch in hand you lined your players up and then turned on the vibration and watched the action!
1968+board
Each plastic player was on a little stand. The bottom of the stand had 4 little sticks of plastic that ran straight down. Those tiny sticks actually helped control the players direction as the vibrating field maneuvered them. The ball was just a miniature hard piece of cotton. A specialist player was also provided for each team. This was the quarterback-kicker. This player would not play in the game unless you decided to pass or kick. At that point you were supposed to shut off the vibrations and attempt to press the ball back in his hand like a sling shot. The ball would fly down the field and hopefully hit a player on your team. If it did it was considered a completed pass. The game was stopped for the kicker too. With a flip of the lever behind his shoulder his leg would swivel into hopefully a successful kick of the ball.

In all of the advertisements for electric football, the games were played by 2 friends competing for football glory. My electric football was an individual game. I played that crazy game for hours. I didn’t have much use for the quarterback-kicker guy. I was more interested in seeing how the players advanced down the field. I think there were 3 different poses a player might have. The obvious blocker with his arms folded, the defensive specialists with their arms out, and the stars of the team with their running poses and their right arm in position to slide the ball in.

Naturally my favorite player was one of those star players. I never gave him a name but he was number 89 of the yellow team. I don’t know how it happened but that particular player had a way of dodging the other players and heading up field with an uncanny ability. Well it seemed like great ability to an 8 year old kid anyway. I would usually line him up in a pile going straight, but somehow he would bounce to the outside and straighten himself up and head down the field faster than any of the other players! Over time his number 89 peeled off and I just put a number 1 on his back with a marker. Truly he was the best ever and deserving the top number!

For a couple of years I played with that game so much that one of the wires got frayed. The only way to make the game work after that was to have the switch clicked on all of the time and connect the wires to make it go. My parents must have noticed my game’s sad shape and the fact that I was constantly shocking myself because that Christmas I got a new electric football game. This one was called The Super Dome and it was much bigger and fancier. It had pictures of all of the famous football players of the day on the outside rim of the field. For some reason though I never had as much fun with it as I did that basic little Tudor model.

The fancier Superdome game

The fancier Super Dome game

One thing I enjoyed doing while playing with my game was lining all of the players at one end and having them race to the other end. Usually number 89 and later number 1 would win the race. Sometimes a dark horse would take the honors. Invariably there would be a player taking the lead and looking like a sure winner only to turn on a dime and start going the wrong way. From constant use and the wearing down of their little guider things on the bottom of their platform, players could change direction in a split second. Sometimes they would get tangled up with each other and start spinning around together. Other times they would get turned to the out of bounds of the game and the vibrations would cause them to just stay turned bumping aimlessly into the side. Other players would go in circles. Still others got stuck in one place no matter how much the vibrations were turned up. This was probably caused by completely worn down guiders. Sometimes if I wanted to see a faster race I turned the vibration up. Invariably some would fall down and lay there helplessly spinning on their backs.

It occurs to me all of these years later that we are a lot like those electric football players in the race to heaven. Some may take the straight path, but far too many of us will get tangled up, lose our way, bump aimlessly off to the side, go around in circles getting nowhere, or just continue to be glued to one spot. When trials come many of us fall down and are not able to get up. When those figures fell down I was quick to set them upright, turn them in the right direction and watch their new progress. That is exactly what God does for us. Sometimes it takes falling to get back on the path to victory!

I never gave number 89 a name but I think I’ll name him the Apostle Paul. One who ran swiftly and straight for the goal no matter what came his way. In a distant part of my mind I hear a faint sound of a game vibrating from days long ago. I see 89 (Paul) straightening himself out and gliding down the field.  I see the kid in me smiling and shaking his head in amazement!

The Bible vs The Cell Phone

Someone sent me this email and I thought it was very interesting in light of the popularity of cell phones these days!  I have written all of the material used in this blog up to now.  I’m going to change that for this particular thought.  I would like to give credit for this amazing comparison to the original writer.  Unfortunately I don’t know who that is.  But God knows and you will be blessed for the blessing you have shined on others! Thank you so much for analyzing a topic we can all relate to!

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?What if we flipped through it several times a day?What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to Kids as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing.

Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being
disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.

Makes you stop and think ‘where are my priorities? And no dropped calls!

The Church is Fast Asleep

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

The alarm clock is ringing
There’s appointments we must keep
But it’s snug here, we’re comfortable
and the church is still asleep

There’s people out there dying
It’s time they should be fed
Where is the church to help them?
Oh we are still in bed

Will someone please shake us up?
Throw water in our face
Tell us it’s time to arise
and get back in the race

Revive us Lord, we’re dying
and causing you to weep
The fields are ripe for harvest
but the church is fast asleep.

The night is nearly over, the
day is almost here. So let us
put aside the deeds of darkness
and put on the armor of light.

Romans 13:12

Making the Effort to Care

When it’s obvious you don’t care

People don’t care what you know, they want to know that you care!  That saying was brought to mind recently when I passed a V.I.P a couple of weeks ago.  As our eyes made contact I said  “Hey” with a smile and he said “How’s it going?”  It was a cold day in Michigan and I had not been in the building long.  “I am freezing”, I offered.  “That’s good” was his reply.  That little exchange got me asking the question again Does anyone really care?

Changing the Script

What messed the whole thing up is I didn’t stay with the script.  If I had said the standard “fine” that was written on my Q-Card everything would have run smoothly.  He stuck to his script, why didn’t I stick to mine?  The answer of course was that I actually thought someone cared.  By his response I saw that running into me was an inconvenience that interrupted his thought process.

Ways of avoiding confrontations and what we are saying

There are ways to avoid these confrontations that people use.  Avoid eye contact when you’re passing someone, mess with your cell phone or just look the other way. What you are telling the person is “you are not important and don’t bother me”.  Or you could move your lips without your voice into a hi form.  This is saying “you’re important enough to acknowledge but not important enough to make an audible sound”.  Then there is the typical “How is it going?” which usually means, I don’t really care so just say fine.

The results of not caring enough

The sad part is that I have been guilty of the same type of thing.  A persons name is very important to them!  So many times I have been guilty of completely forgetting someone’s name. It can happen when I know their name but happen to run into them unexpectedly and can’t pull their name up.  That situation is somewhat excusable.  The one that isn’t is when I have been introduced to someone and never bothered to know their name.  Worse yet is if they start calling me by name and I don’t know theirs.  If you are like me at that point you are making every effort to find out their name!

Caring takes effort

The best way to show you care in those passing moments is by using the name of the person you’re passing.  “Hi Frank, How are you?”, with a smile and then actually listening to his response.  Of course you have to know that his name is Frank and it helps to know a little about him.  That is where the effort of caring comes in.  If you really do care you will show it with preparation.  Just as you would prepare for a test because you care how you do, preparing for caring is just as important!  Preparation is the state of  having made ready beforehand.  It’s like practicing your free throws before you are confronted with the situation in the big game.  Or it’s like studying for the big test before the big test.  Anticipating the questions and the answers before they come up.  We take a lot of time preparing for these type of things and yet making the effort to care is usually disregarded.

Programming your mind

Don’t make the mistake of saying “I can never remember names”, or “I am not good at remembering names”.  In those statements you are programming your mind to not make the effort because it will fail anyway.  Your mind is like a giant computer.  We’ve all filled it with worthless information and trivia.  Now use it in a positive way to show you care, instead of just mouthing the words!

The First Introduction

A key moment in remembering names is when we are first introduced to someone.  How many times do they walk out and we are saying, “Now what was his name again?’  The fact is we were not paying attention.  We had our minds on something else or what we were going to say.  We didn’t think of their name or associate it with anything.  Instead  concentrate on the name and the face.  When they leave, if at all possible, write their names down.  Make a list of that person’s name, what they look like and something about them.  Keep a little book of names and information about them.  It has been proven that by writing things down you are more apt to remember.

Preparing for the name test

Prepare yourself for names of people you may come into contact with.  Check your little book,  review your names and put a face to them.  Very rarely do you hear someone say “the name is familiar but I didn’t recognize the face”. Review what you wrote earlier about their job, where they live etc.  The more you dwell on the caring effort the more you will remember!

Something to think about

How does all of this talk about remembering names and caring relate to our christian walk?  Well the fact is that if the church is not reaching out and helping people around it, it is failing.  It is past the time for “feel good” services.  Is caring an inconvenience that interrupts our plans and ideas? When the church asks the world, “how’s it going?”, it needs to be prepared for the reality of the answer, stop and listen with interest, and make the effort to care.

Eternity

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Where should my thoughts
and actions be,
on worldly things
or eternity?

One is passing
the other one lasts
One never ends,
one goes by fast

I often wonder
when my life is done,
will I be rewarded
for souls I had won?

Or will I just carry
what satisfied me,
with no lasting value
for eternity?

But store up for yourself
treasure in heaven, where
moth and rust do not destroy,
and where thieves do not
break in and steal.

Matthew 6:20

There Is Nothing Wrong With Me

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

The little red car ran down the road
with a loud and might roar,
missing cylinders, coughing some
with a muffler that was torn

Smoke pouring out of its engine
for everyone to see
but it kept saying to itself,
There is nothing wrong with me

The mechanic is a kind, just man
who liked to fix old cars
Come in for some good, quick repairs
Your journey won’t be far

Oh no, the little red car said,
As anyone can see,
I’m just as healthy as a horse
There is nothing wrong with me

The mechanic pleaded with him
but he just drove away
Maybe if I can hardly run
I’ll go to him someday

For now I run better than most
of the cars I see
Though I might miss and cough a lot
there is not much wrong with me

Well time went by, the car did try
to start another day
It coughed and smoke poured out of it
It caught on fire they say

The mechanic loves to fix all cars
Repairs are always free
If only that little car didn’t say
There is nothing wrong with me.

If we claim we have not sinned,
we make him out to be a liar and
his word has no place in our lives.

I John 1:10

Hello Charlie Goodbye Shine

“Charlie?  Charlie Ford?  Can it really be you?”  Charlie looked up and turned his lights on to see better.  It was early morning in the universities parking lot.  “Mike?  Mike Mercury?  How in the world did you ever recognize me?”  Mike’s voice was filled with excitement! “You know me Charlie, I never forget a grill!  “How long has it been anyway?”, Charlie asked.  “2004 at Metro’s Used Car Lot”, Mike replied.  “Oh, I know that”, Charlie said, “I’ll never forget that place!  The year escaped me though, the old mileage tracker isn’t what it used to be.  We were both so young then with our whole life ahead of us.” Mike thought for a moment, “I remember so well Charlie, those were good times.  When I look back at the times in that lot, they were some of the happiest memories I have!  Remember when you got hired Charlie?”   Charlie thought for just a second.  It seemed his lights had just a little extra brightness at that moment.  “How could I ever forget that?” Charlie laughed.  “That was the beginning for Mr. Johnson and I!  He kicked my tire for some reason.  All of the sudden my hub came flying off, it was so embarrassing.”  Mr. Johnson just laughed, “I didn’t like those hub caps anyway”, he said.  “It was pretty lonely there after you were taken away Charlie.  We had a lot of good times together out there!”  “Hey Mike, do you remember that time you were so close to leaving?” Charlie chuckled.  “You mean the wiper fluid episode?”, Mike laughed. “I was so nervous that day”, he continued.  “The salesperson was trying to show my windshield washer and for the life of me I couldn’t produce a single drop!  Oh it was awful, he kept pushing my button and nothing.  The customer’s eyes wandered to someone else on the lot after that”.  “Oh, you don’t know do you?” Charlie said.  “Know what?” Mike asked.  “Know that you were the victim of a bad joke!” Charlie replied.  “What?” Mike blurted, his voice rising.  “It’s true”, Charlie began again, “remember Vic Crown?”  “Oh yes”, Mike remembered with a soft chuckle.  “The guy that was always cracking everyone up! The guy who was always clowning around.”  Charlie explained patiently, “One night while you were sleeping, Vic got under your hood and emptied all of your wiper fluid.”  Mikes wipers did a sudden sweep over his windshield.  It was a sudden twitch that was triggered when he heard startling news.  “I never knew” he said.  “All of these years I thought it was all my fault.  I really wanted to leave that day too”, Mike recalled.  “I sat there after you left blaming myself for being such a failure.  It seemed like I was always in a deep depression. Then one fine day Charlie, I remember it so well, Mr. Anderson came in and for some reason took a liking to me.  I have been so happy ever since.  It is a pleasure to work for the guy!”

Memories of Red “The Shine” Camaro..He never liked this picture “It didn’t show my true shine!”

“Hey Charlie, do you remember Red “The Shine” Camaro?”  “How could I ever forget Shine?” Charlie smiled as he remembered. “Remember that shine he had”, Mike continued, “He was so bright I wanted to cover my lights when he came by.  Remember how he would spin around after everyone left at night and what he would say?” They both began to chant together… “Take a good look at these tail lights boys cuz when we all get out of here, these are the only things you jokers will see of me .”  “I’ll tell you” Mike continued, “I never met a guy who wanted to live the fast life more than Shine. You heard what happened to him didn’t you?  A dad and his kid took a liking to Shine.  The kid was graduating from high school and the dad wanted to make him happy.  I’ll say one thing, Shine was never happier.  That kid had a lead foot but Shine loved it!  Unfortunately Larry Lincoln was in his path one day.  Shine swirled and missed Larry, but slammed into a pole and it was lights out for Shine.  They looked him over and decided that all they could salvage was some of his parts.  His remains are at the junk graveyard down the road.”  Mike looked sad, his grill looked a little more twisted than normal.  “You know Charlie, a month ago I was out on a country road and I saw some tail lights that looked just like Shines.  They were so similar I could swear they were.”  Mike felt a steady uneasiness in his carburetor as his  wiper fluid slowly covered his windshield.  He had thought of Shine many times over the years and always had similar emotional outbursts.  When he finally got his composure he noticed that Charlie had a wet windshield too.

“Well enough of these sad thoughts,” Mike continued, “Tell me Charlie, what have you been up to all of these years?”  Charlie smiled and did one swipe with his wipers over his windshield, his face brightened. “Well like I said Mike, Mr. Johnson has been good to me.  He makes sure I get frequent checkups and keeps my body fluids in good order!  He doesn’t push me too much. Let’s just say he treats me well!”  “Have you worked here long?” Charlie asked.  “Yes”, Mike replied “I have been here since 2008.  It is a good place, good personalities around here.  I’ve had a few scrapes with some of them.  Mostly new guys who don’t stay around long.  Some of those guys have careless doors and they don’t mind jabbing you now and then.  I had a lot of support when I came back after the accident.”  “The accident?”  Charley gasped, “what happened?”  “”Well I was going down the road minding my own business when Van Minnie pulled right out in front of me. He’s kind of a big guy who I have often said, I wouldn’t want to run into him in the middle of the night.  Well I didn’t, It was broad daylight.  We were both in the hospital together.  My grill got messed up and my hood caved in.  They replaced my hood and pulled my grill out and made it work.  I’ll tell you, I wish they would have just replaced it.  It has caused me pain ever since.  Van’s injuries were more severe.  He needed door replacement and new glass.  He also had to be aligned again.  I hit him pretty good!  We had a lot of time to talk while we were in the hospital together.  He’s a good guy and I don’t blame him.  I guess it’s true, accidents happen.  Life is too short to hold grudges you know?  So Charlie, are you here for awhile then?”  Charlie smiled, “I think so!  Mr. Johnson is excited about starting his new job here, so here I am!  I guess I’ll be seeing you quite a lot Mike.  It already seems like old times!”

Along came “Old Sam”

Just then Sam Olds pulled in beside Mike.  After his door slammed and Sam was alone, Mike introduced his old friend to his new old friend.  “Sam, I have someone for you to meet.  He is a friend from way back.  Charlie this is Sam.  Sam-Charlie.”  Sam looked Charlie over.  “Good to meet you Challey,” Sam drawled.  Sam had a southern accent that never left him from his start in Alabama.  “Did ya’ll mention the rules of the lot Mok?” asked Sam.  As the oldest and longest active member Sam had taken it upon himself to write the lot rules. “No Sam, we have just been remembering old times”, Mike replied.  “Wa-ell”, Sam began “keep yer dohrs to yerself .  I don’t wont no more pain of dents from care-less-nay-us!  Ya best not have yer horn goin’  off fer no apparent reason eitha.  Get fixin yer problem er get outta the lot!  I’m tellin’ ya back yonder in the day we nevah had that problem!  Our horn blew when someone pushed on the steerin’ wheel an’ that was it!  Here’s another thang, keep yer body in the spot designed fer ya.  Don’t be on the lines er leaning over in another guys spot!  If yer sick stay home.  We don’t need no coughin’, leakin’, backfirin’, sickly bodies roamin’ round us.  Make yerself presentable.  Try ta git yerself washt as of’fen as possible.  And lastly, don’t git loud and obnoxious.  If you start feelin’ loudness comin’ on, take the hint ‘n have yer muffler replaced!  That’s our rules.  Think of others while yer here!”  Sam concluded.  He closed his eyes about to take a little nap.  Charlie looked surprised.  “Don’t let Sam alarm you Charlie”, Mike offered, “You have to remember he is a 1991 model.”  Sam’s eyes opened quickly.  “You laughin’ at my age again Mok?  Let me tell you Challey, I seen my share of comin’s and goin’s in mah time.  You may wonder how I stayed ’round so long.” he continued.  “The secret to long life, he concluded, is ta find someone who loves ya ‘n is willin’ ta stay with ya through the tough times.  Lemme tell ya, cars ain’t what they used ta be!  Now kids want all fancy gadgets.  They want direction fonders ‘n auto-matic car starters. Cars were cars ‘n my day.  I always had a car starter.  It’s called a key!  Now they have things like TV’s, reclinin’ seats, ‘n On-Star.  Cars today are wimps!  We didn’t need all that fancy stuff.  We had a steerin’ wheel, gas pedal ‘n a brake!  We kept the drivers attention on the road, nothin’ fancy, jest good ole solid parts!  Now look, computer this ‘n that.  When that little computer chip goes wrong, these new boys are costin’ their employer thousands!”

Sam seemed to be fully awake now!  His lights seemed to brighten  from the sun rays and his own excitement.  “Now talk ’bout a good employer who loved me, it was Mr. Hamilton.  Mr. Hamilton adopted me from his brother in Alabama.  Best man I evah met!  That guy dint hurry,. He was always an hour ahead a time.  If traffic backed up, it dint effect Mr. Hamilton, no sir!  He drove the same every time!  The only times I ever ‘membered him gettin’ in a little hurry was when we were goin’ back to Alabama!  I sure dint mind it then!  I was glad to go myself ‘n couldn’t wait ta get there!”

“After Mr. Hamilton died his son became my employer.  He’s a nice guy ‘n all, but he’s no Mr. Hamilton, no sir.  He jist barely gets places on time, so it’s hurry up fer me!  He makes me carry a bunch a junk too.  Golf clubs, softball ‘quipment, ‘n whatever else he decides ta throw in the back seat.  But I shouldn’t complain.  Hamilton Jr. takes good care of me too.  Jist last year my brakes stopped workin’ completely.  He took me in fer an expensive operation even at my advanced age!  See this cut in my bumpah?  We were in a softball field parkin’ lot mindin’ our own business when a member of the Chevy family pulled raht out ‘n fronta  us.  I thought that was probly the enda me.  Hamilton Jr. took me to a body hospital.  They decided to try ‘n straighten me out without as many replacement parts ’cause they knew I dint have in-surance.  Lemme tell you boys, I survived bad batteries, bad mufflers, bad alternators, bad wheels, bad spots on my outside.  You name it, I’ve probly had problems with it!  One time I couldn’t even get my windows ta go down.  I see so many new faces these days.  When somethin’ goes wrong, many times a new guy ends up in the parkin’  lot.  I remember jist last week old Barry Buick was havin’ some trouble.  His coughin’ ‘n leakin’ was really botherin’ him.  The next day a brand new guy had taken his place.  I’m tellin’ you boys, I’ve been fortunate!  The Hamilton’s have been good ta me!”  With that old Sam closed his eyes.  He would nap for the last hour until he was required for the trip home!

Vic Crown…What a joker he was!

Mike and Charlie picked up their conversation about the past and the future!  “Whatever happened to Vic Crown”?, Mike wondered.  Charlie laughed “He works for the police department Mike”.  “He gets his kicks now sounding his siren and flashing his lights!”  They both laughed uncontrollably at the thought of Vic still able to clown around! It seemed like just the perfect job for him they both agreed.  Although It was an ordinary day for most in the lot, this would be a day that neither Mike nor Charlie would soon forget!  It didn’t seem long before doors were opening and engines were starting.  Old Sam was awakened from a nice dream by the twist of his ignition.  Mike and Charlie were saying their goodbyes and see you tomorrows as they motored out of the parking lot!

As Mike was straightening up on the main road a guy from the Camaro family pulled right out in front of him.  Mike’s brakes had to be good to stop in time.  Mike looked at the tail lights ahead of him.  If he hadn’t known better, he was thinking, they look like Shines!  The Camaro guy raced through the stop light that was way past yellow.  Mike made his appropriate stop.  As he was sitting there Mike went into deep reflection. Although he looked a bit like Shine, Mike thought to himself, he’s no Shine. His lights couldn’t carry a candle to Shines!  Shine had that confidence, that sparkle, those tail lights; and of course we didn’t call him Shine for nothing!  Mr. Anderson beckoned Mike to continue.  The light had turned green.  Mike delayed slightly, interrupted by Shine’s bright shiny image in his head.  It almost made him close his eyes Shine’s glistening reflection seemed so brilliant and alive. His wiper fluid felt like it was about to squirt uncontrollably all over his windshield again at that moment.  Shine was so young, with his whole life ahead of him.  It didn’t make sense for him to be gone so soon. “Take a good look at these tail lights boys,” Mike remembered again, “Cuz when we get out of here these are the only things you jokers will see of me.” Mike smiled slowly as he thought of that memory! How he would give his driver side door just to see Shine alive again.  Even if it was just a view of his tail lights steadily moving farther away on a warm summer drive. Old Sam was right when he said, ‘they don’t make them like they used to’.  After they made Red “The Shine” Camaro Mike concluded, they must have broke the mold and discarded the formula for his dazzling red paint, issuing a warning, ‘Too bright for the eyes, never to be used again!’  For anyone who met Shine that conclusion would surely be believed, yet nobody would have predicted that his shine would be even brighter long after he was gone!

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