Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pick-a-Part Blues

  There were some things that The Van Man did not understand. And there were some things he did. In 1986, Van Man's Mother bartended at a little joint called Our Place. Van Man would often help her set up the bar on Saturday mornings. He refilled the ice bin, set up the bar stools and stocked the tables with napkins and matchbooks. He enjoyed those Saturday mornings immensely because after his job was done, Van Mother would allow her son to watch Cinemax on the bar television. Van Man was happy because, for some reason in 1986, Saturday Morning Cinemax only showed horror movies. That was something Van Man understood. What the Van Man did not understand was why Van Mother would not allow him to use the Men's restroom at Our Place. She only allowed him to use the Women's restroom, no matter how badly he needed to go. And he did not understand why a fold-out photograph of a butt-naked, muscular man was stapled to the restroom wall. Van Man felt uncomfortable as he sat on the toilet and looked straight ahead while the naked man stared back at him. Every time he had to use the Women's Restroom in Our Place, Van Man would never understand.
  2014. Los Angeles. And Van Man still found himself not understanding some things. On one of the hottest days of the year, Van Man strolled along the aisles of rusted-out vehicles inside the Sun Valley Pick-a-Part. He hoped to find a tire mount for the back door of his Van. It was a Chevy. Van Man carried his toolbox and searched. And searched. The Sun beat down on Van Man and the hundred other men who searched among the vehicles. He was careful with his footsteps. He did not want to fall victim to the broken glass and twisted steel that littered the grounds. An hour passed and he realized that there were only three Chevy vans in the entire lot. This was something he could not understand. And it was hot. The time passed and The Sun's reflection danced off the glass-covered dirt. Finally, The Van Man came upon a suitable tire mount and realized to his dismay that it belonged to a Dodge. He did not understand why he suddenly had a disdain for the Dodge Corporation. It better damn work, thought Van Man.
  Van Man opened his trusty toolbox and began the disassembly. The Sun shone its trusty rays down onto the Boys of the Pick-a-Part. As he worked away on the Dodge Mount, Van Man sensed something among the many men who rummaged through the rust and debris. There was laughter and lively conversation in the air. There was camaraderie. He thought that the Pick-a-Part might be a place where girls were not allowed. Maybe it was a Men's Club. The last vestige of a bygone era, thought Van Man. Sweat poured down his face. And The Sun was hot. When he had the Dodge Mount off of the vile Dodge Van, he decided that it was time to go.
  Van Man walked up to multiple check-out lanes. It seemed to him that there were no less than one hundred tired and sweaty men in the lines. All of them with pieces and parts of Fords, Hondas, Toyotas, Chryslers and the dreaded Dodges. But not one Chevy part. That was something Van Man could not understand. The lines were slow. For the first thirty minutes, The Van Man stood in The Sun's mean glare. An hour passed and he had closed in to the front of the line. Van Man noticed a Dirty Man in the lane next to him. Dirty Man had oil and dirt smeared across nearly every discernible part of his skin. Dirty Man also wore a sweat shirt and a pair of jeans that were just as dirty. Van Man did not understand why Dirty Man wore the hot clothes on the hottest of days. The Sun is laughing at this dirty bastard, thought Van Man. Dirty Man approached the Check-Out Clerk. He seemed to ask a question, then a commotion began in the line behind him. Van Man watched as an Hispanic Man yelled in Spanish at Dirty Man. He ignored the Man. The Hispanic Man became more aggressive. Van Man did not understand what he was screaming at Dirty Man. And he did not understand why. What Van Man did know, however, was that The Sun was somehow behind the commotion. Must be the heat, thought Van Man. 
"Nah, man, tell 'em he's gotta go to the back!", screamed a Young Man.
The Van Man understood that.
"Make 'em go to the back, he's gotta wait in the Sun like everybody else!"
The Sun was going to like that.
In front of Van Man, a Gentleman clapped and smiled. The Check-Out Clerk ushered Dirty Man off into the Sun. Van Man watched as the many Men, in their lines, smiled and joked in camaraderie. Dirty Man was sad. The Sun was glad. And the Hispanic Man muttered something in victory.
"Fucking Asshole..."
The Van Man understood that well.
  Finally, it was time for Van Man to purchase the Dodge Mount. He did so gladly. The Clerk gave him a free bottle of water, something to use against The Sun. Van Man left the Pick-a-Part and The Sun beat down. He drove in the stifling heat with a feeling of better understanding of the world. He reached his destination, the park that he frequented. Van Man was happy to have the Dodge Mount. He took out the Mount and held it up to the back door of his Chevy Van. The Mount was a perfect fit. Except that it wasn't. It did not have the right hinge fixtures. It was, after all, a Dodge Mount. He knew that the heat had gotten to him and he had made a mistake at the Pick-a-Part. The Van Man was frustrated, The Sun had won and there were still many things he did not understand.

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