May I Bend Your Ear?

My van’s last gasp – when sputtering – is satisfied very few places. F’uel pardon the sensitivity, I believe my tow vehicle has feelings. It creaks and moans when distressed and, other times, hums beautiful monotones as we travel together down a lonely highway … maintaining a safe, legal speed, of course.

I know where to go during the low gasp times. I’ll go out of my way to drift into Sunoco riding the fumes of prior days’ negligence. Not just any Sunoco, of course. If this was the case, there would be no reason to write a blog today, right? But, there IS a reason!

The Sunoco at the corner of Allegheny Street and Penn (Rt. 36) in Hollidaysburg, Pa. If you read my post yesterday, this friendly, convenient station is a chess knight’s move northeast from Best Way Pizza. Two by one blocks will get you and yours to Raj and Nick’s Sunoco sitting peacefully across from our local Post Office. If you’re mood is sputtering – not just your mode of transport, stop by.

Today’s reason isn’t just because their business is nice, or the gas is cleaner and better for my sit-in friend. The machines pump one full of information. As well, they transport needed gas to the soon to be full metal and plastic alloy friends driven into the station.

There’s a little screen on the pump, about eye level for a 6′ guy like me, that has a few ads – of course – then up pops a “word of the day”. It’s such a nice, educational easement sitting among the barricades of busyness standing in our way every day. Ten seconds to stop and pay attention … not only to the ticking of $2.49 a gallon flowing out of my wallet, but also to one word and its definition: “ductile” – able to be deformed without losing toughness; capable of being stretched out without breaking, as it were. The best example I was able to find was gold possibly being formed into wire.

I have few reasons to believe vapors from the nozzle were effecting my thoughts as I considered what that word meant – truly meant. “Bend, but not break”, rushed through my mind as I watched the rubber hose twist in the pre-winter, 35-degree wind. How appropriately stamped is that phrase in the letters U.S.A. sent to us through generations past? Wars, depressions, once in a hundred years plague a century ago, terrorism, etc … all bent our collective consciousnesses but didn’t break us.

Enter 2020 and two deformed, socially punches to our gut: A hotly contested Presidential election and, of course, COVID-19. Hand-in-hand, the overlapping viral ideas and opinions continue to stress the strongest bonds among families, friends, and workplace associates.

We saw the former coming. I assume we did, anyway. It was four years of a radical turn away from what we knew as normal White House policy and procedures marginally voted in by a distressed, disgruntled populous wanting change. As the newest red hat society, far from ladies in their 50’s and above looking for a recess from day-to-day stressors, this cap wearing MAGA community rode their hero into town and stayed dutifully on the horse. To this day, the reigns are still tight, held by the faithful few. White knuckled are they … hoping for a ride into the sunset of defeat or victory on a stubborn horse refusing to whoa-fully admit it may be the end of the ride.

COVID-19 came out of nowhere. Yeah, ok … Wuhan. Sure, let’s go with that. Back it up a bit from there. Out of “know where” is better. We didn’t know what to do. March 13th, friday, was the day everything stopped in Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf, for all intents and purposes, shut us down. This was during the wave of shutdowns coming across the country and we knew this was inevitable. Colors of green, yellow, and red splashed across Facebook pages as friends posted Pa. maps coded county by county. Store shelves, wiped clean of toilet paper, sanitizer, and canned goods, sat empty testifying loudly to the world that my fellow Blair Countians were afraid of the future. Nobody knew the road ahead. Masking, social distancing, Dr. Fauci, and any hint of a vaccine were concepts, people, and hopes unknown to any of us.

The following nine months were gestationally brutal. March through this past November 13th – nearly 270 days – saw us have the most incredibly difficult time as a nation. And, it’s not over, is it?

This pregnancy is going into overtime.

Which gets me back to why my van sputtered at the pump this morning. I was almost out of gas. Almost.

As Americans, it seems we are almost out of gas. The election and COVID-19 has kicked the living crap out of us this year. Hand-in-hand, these two events, by themselves, would have been enough. Together, they’ve been brutal. The economic, social, medical, and emotional strain pulling at both ends of our family and friends’ relationships is heartbreaking. Just the masking opinions alone drive a wedge between people these days, regardless of the science.

I stopped for ten seconds in the cold to fill my tank at Sunoco and saw a single, simple word: ductile. This gives me hope and I wanted to share it with you. We can believe things happen for a reason, or not. I’m just a guy who sees wonderful words, pictures, or people and wants to pass them on to you.

This word, ductile, in itself is seven letters. What it means, however, is so much more to us. We bend, but don’t break. No more complicated than that.

2020 will be not be remembered as our best year, for sure. President Biden, presumably at this time (I guess 🤦🏻‍♂️), President Trump’s lame duck time remaining, the Senate (or anything in Washington for that matter), COVID-19 vaccines, stats and charts, etc… will all be in front of us for the remainder and into 2021. We can’t escape into some Wonka world and eat candy until things get all right with the universe. There will be smudges on the glass and everlasting gobstoppers to deal with for some time.

Until then, remember we’re resilient, ductile people who know diversity. We see ugly and make it pretty. We see sad and do our best to make it happy. We work our butts off go help those who don’t help themselves.

In ten seconds, I was reminded of this. Thankfully, there’s a friendly gas station in town. A place where a distressed van sat for a few minutes guzzling a gallon or two of premium fuel. Beside it, a guy very grateful to live in a country that never gives up. Never breaks.

That’s what makes America great in the first place. No red hat needed.

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