In the early hours of Saturday in Syria, bombs fall, a first world response to do as we say and not as we do or else. Mission accomplished, whatever that means.
Later that same morning, my washing machine fills with water and stops, refusing to start the wash cycle no matter what I say or do. Sometime later, the repairmen (it takes two) tell me it is a Monday problem, at which time they will return to empty my washer of water and clothes to see if the machine is worth fixing.
I know a bit more about washing machines than bombs but not enough about either. Although I am at fault in evaluating one with the other, I can no more afford to replace a washing machine than I can offer a solution to world peace.
Why is that?
Somewhere in the truth of that false equivalency is an answer on whose surface I skate every day, hoping it will hold until it doesn’t. Like Saturday.
Prior to the arrival of the repairmen, and perhaps coincidentally, I meet one of my neighbors in the hallway of my apartment complex. I am on my way to guide the repairmen to a parking place. In actuality, none are available for all are assigned, some to people who do not live here but occasionally visit.
I am among the lucky who have an assigned space, by virtue of being among those who have lived here longest but I know that assigned parking does not mean having a place. Freely, the phrase “parking Nazis” is bandied about but no one is quite sure who they are. Just that they are.
In my cell phone conversation with the repairman I do not explain everything but I do mention parking Nazis in hopeful emphasis, for I have yet to be a cause of parking concern and don’t want this to be that day, too.
As is, mine is not to meet the repairmen in the parking lot.
“Aren’t you a Buddhist?”
It is Vicky, hers is a smoker’s voice, husky and helped by tubes attached to the oxygen cylinder lying in the basket of her walker. Her dog, Teddy, tethered to its handlebars.
“Well, I see myself more as Zen.” Why I never just say “yes” to being Buddhist, I do not know. I just won’t.
“What does that mean?” Vicky asks, wary that I might actually try to explain. I can all but see the amount of oxygen increase in her transparent nose tubes.
She is not looking to understand the many schools of Buddhism (as if I do) much less the distinction of labels. Just like me, she has only her kind of love to give, and on this day she is offering it, doing her best to ask about something she knows nothing about other than it is important to me.
“It means open to everyone.” And for once, I stop there.
“So, do you do tai chi?” And we find our way to conversation.
If I hear her, I will find something to give in response. Nothing magical, just helpful. She’s in so much pain, much of it physical, and I tell her about my gentle yoga practice. It does not take much to begin a practice, just a DVD I tell her, and she is relieved. Maybe it will be a way for her. Maybe.
While Vicky and I talk, the repairmen are in my apartment examining all the parts of my washing machine, where distinctions matter. What began on Saturday must be met again on Monday. As always, mission ongoing.
Only later do I remember the parking Nazis.