Stranger Encounters: Shovel-Sitting

Excerpt from mail sent in 2000:

Yesterday, I was walking through Golden Gate Park, sipping grass jelly tapioca pearl milk tea through an extra-wide straw. I'd been walking along the beach for a while. I was ready to sit. I was looking for a bench.

I walked past one of those earthmoving equipment vehicle things. It was sitting on a patch of lawn, unoccupied, unguarded. I walked up to it, sipping my drink. Could I step up and into this thing to rest? It was open to the world. There was a metal ladder I could climb. I looked inside. The seat: it was padded. This would be cushier than any bench.

Still, I hesitated. This was semi-illicit. I was visible to anyone walking past. What if someone called the cops?

Then I saw the beverage holder. There, on the side of the roll cage, was a molded plastic beverage holder. I could put down my tea. That was the deciding factor.

I clambered up and sat down and put down my beverage and it was very nice indeed. I looked at the vehicle controls. I thought that everything about this substantial piece of equipment must be made of steel, but the dashboard was plastic. It was obviously a general-purpose dashboard. It had perhaps 6 switches on it, but there were spaces in which more switches could have been attached.

I looked at the instructions for engaging the Thermal Aid. The Thermal Aid apparently aided the engine in getting started or something like that. The instructions mentioned that I should never spray ether on the engine when the Thermal Aid was engaged, though I never would have thought to spray ether on the engine under any circumstances.

That's when the father walked up to me. He was the father of a family I'd seen earlier on the beach. They were now here, in the park, out of the wind. He walked up and looked up at me sitting in the seat of this steamshovel thing. His family was back on the path, watching. Father asked me if there was a good place around where the kids could do some rollerblading. I answered, he walked off. He didn't say please or thank-you, but he must have been so brave to talk to the weirdo on the earthmoving-equipment-vehicle-thing that I felt proud of him anyhow. I never did anything half so brave while I was in Japan.


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