Wednesday, 13 February 2013

plumbing van

When I arrive, I see them.  A father and son.  My car bounces in and out of the potholes in this makeshift parking lot.  In the summer, this is a farmer’s field and I wonder how the tractors navigate these craters without damage.

He is a plumber, the writing on the side of his van gives it away, but I can also see what’s inside. Each of the back doors is propped open by a pair of skis.  There are welding tools, putty guns, piping and an air compressor. Everything is lined up and in its place – very Swiss in its organization and tidiness.    

We are parked beside each other at the bottom of a ski lift. The sun in shining and it’s what skiers call a “perfect bluebird”.

Father and son are both hunched over, putting on their ski boots.  The father tries to jam his foot into the soft liner encased by a hard plastic shell.  He starts to fall over and he flaps his arms around his body to re-gain his balance.  The boot tips over on its side with his toes still stuck in the top.  With some flicking, his socked foot comes free and he almost steps into the muddy puddle beside his van.  This dance is a familiar one.  Years of practice getting dressed for skiing in parking lots, on the side of the road.
Finally, they both get their boots on.  When the father stands back up, I get my first good look at him.  I guess he’s probably in his sixties, has grey hair and tanned skin.  By the deep wrinkles on his forehead, around his eyes and mouth, I suspect he spends a lot of time outdoors.   The son is maybe ten years old.  He looks like a younger version of his father, dark hair, round face and dimples in his cheeks.

I am so taken with this scene that I am fiddling with my own boots, taking a long time to get ready so that I can watch them.  

There is little conversation between the father and son as they go about getting ready, but they are both smiling.  They each take their poles out of the van and prop them up against their skis.  The son’s poles fall over and narrowly miss being run over by a car that’s pulling in.  He quickly picks them up and looks to see if his father has seen.  His eyes are wide, but he smiles when he sees that he's fiddling with something in the back of the van and hasn’t noticed.  They both put on their helmets, snap the buckles under their chins.  

“Ok, bist du bereit?” the man asks his son.  Are you ready?  

They share a smile and the son replies, “gehen wir!” Let’s go!  

They close the van doors and the older man slides the keys into his ski jacket pocket.  He pats his son on the back and they walk together towards the chairlift.  

I don’t really know anything about this father and son, but they stay with me.