Tractor Oil and Rodney’s Coffee

I can’t say how long it’ll last but Curmudgeon Compound’s “EMP Resistant, Non-OSHA Approved, Overland Work Unit” (i.e. my antique tractor) is running! (This isn’t a new development but I’ve been afraid to mention it because I didn’t want to tempt fate.) She’s a bit anemic (I must have kergiggered the carb wrong?) but every time I’ve asked she has sputtered to life and performed like the plucky little powerhouse she is. Good!

Tractors, like Curmudgeons, are only good if they can work. Can I rejoice? I don’t know. I’ve been hurt before. Maybe it’s all just a ploy to regain my love. Who knows? For now, though, my driveway is plowed like a runway. Huzzah!

When I bought her she leaked like the Exxon Valdez even before the engine croaked. During the rebuild I managed to get the engine so tight that it didn’t leak at all! Awesome! Unfortunately, it didn’t run. Not awesome. Much swearing and banging of knuckles happened before I finally got her moving under her own power. By then a tiny oil leak had developed. Damn! The leak is minuscule. For a tractor of her age it’s normal. Yet it annoys me. On the other hand I’m afraid to fix it. If I tear it down again who knows what’ll happen?

The drop of oil it left on the ground reminded me of Rodney’s coffee.

. . .

Skip gears a bit and I’ll tell you about this guy I knew. Lets call him Rodney. For all I know Rodney was a genius and a saint but I always thought he was a doofus and a yoyo. He might have been a consumate professional in his field. I didn’t work with him directly so I don’t know and it wasn’t my problem. The only thing that mattered was that Rodney and I (among others) shared the communal office coffee pot.

Rodney simply couldn’t hold a cup of coffee. I have no idea why. Perhaps it was something dark and tragic. Maybe he was kidnapped in Seattle and abused by a barista. Regardless, Rodney blundered through the coffee area like a one man talking tornado.

He was impressively unaware of his surroundings; the living demonstration of “condition white”. He was a big guy. He moved with the grace of Orsen Welles on dope. He was loud. He was hard to ignore.

He would careen into the breakroom with a mug in hand, smack it down on the counter, yank the pot off the burner, pour in the general vicinity, and shove the pot back onto the burner… or somewhere nearby. Never once would he look at either cup or pot. On a good day he’d get three quarters of the coffee in the cup and the rest on the counter. On a bad day he’d get coffee on the rug, himself, even the stupid plastic plant. (Someone please explain why offices have plastic potted plants?) Sometimes he’d splash it on the walls.

On. The. Walls. Have any of you… Seriously now hear me out… Have any of you spilled coffee on a wall?

Rodney thought his hands could pour coffee without his mind’s participation. He simply looked wherever his mouth was aimed.

His speech was Foghorn Leghorn mixed with “Drunk Senator”. Much of what he said was for the joy of hearing his own voice. The rest was for self aggrandizement. As if everything in his brain were a great revelation. “HO HO HO. GOT A BIG MEETING TODAY!” Splash. “I.T. JUST HOOKED UP THE NEW COMPUTER!” Spill. “A NEW PHOTOCOPIER HAS BEEN ORDERED!” Drip.

I like my coffee area laboratory clean (I’ll admit that makes me weird). Intellectually I accept that office coffee pots are never truly clean (people are pigs) but brewing coffee shouldn’t create an EPA Superfund site. Rodney, clearly, had other opinions. After he passed I could analyze the splash marks like a detective determining bullet trajectories.

I’d always fix the mess. Why? Because wasn’t I going to get into a hygiene war of attrition with a human bomb and coffee is important. I’d wipe off the pot, move it from wherever he left it to its proper place on the burner, wipe the counter with a towel, apologize to the plastic plant, tiptoe around the wet carpet, and OH MY GOD… the sugar bowl! What did he do, take a dump in it? (I started bringing my own cream and sugar.)

I’m a cream and sugar guy (especially when the coffee sucks). It’s the only sweetness in my personality. Whenever he saw it, Rodney simply had to comment. “Ho ho ho. I LIKE IT BLACK!” He intended this to demonstrate his awesome masculine prowess. Really? We both knew he couldn’t climb the stairs without having a coronary. I could wear a dress to the ballet and still be tougher than him. For those of you who work up a sweat levering your ass out of a chair; just let it go.

“Ho ho ho. Want a TOP OFF?” He’d shout while pivoting wildly in my direction. I’d hop back as coffee spewed in a wide circular arc. I tried to diplomatically bring Rodney’s focus to the task at hand. “Hey asshole, quit spillin’ the damn coffee.” It didn’t work. Rodney could only hear one wavelength and that was his own voice. Speaking to him was explaining physics to a sea monkey. Not everything is within our power to change. Watching fat braggart whales drooling Folgers on their penny loafers is part of life. It was a lesson I had to learn.

Once I distanced myself from the compost heap he was making out of the coffee pot I felt not merely disgust but also awe. He had a sense of personal importance I’ll never attain. He had found the place where humility grew and battered it to nothingness. As he swayed down the hall at the head of a trail of coffee I’d think to myself; that level of unawareness is simply magnificent.

Once we were all forced to attend a minor safety briefing about a new power unit. Rodney, of course, took charge and narrated the whole thing. Fascinated, I watched him set a cup down with a thump that spilled half it’s contents. It formed a little pool near his right arm. Everyone was watching a screen. I was watching the coffee. Ever so gently I lifted my side of the table. Not much; a fraction of a degree. Nobody noticed. Rodney was loudly reading the slides’ bullet points (based on his personal understanding that we were all illiterate and therefore couldn’t read them on our own). The coffee pool found it’s new low point and started moving. “Balanced position…” he boomed. The coffee inched forward. “Power disconnect…” He orated. The coffee formed a tiny river and spilled on his crotch. I stifled a laugh.

At the end of the meeting he got up, wet nuts and all, and shambled away. I practically died. He never noticed. Was he daydreaming about taking a dump in the sugar?

To save my sanity I got my own coffee maker. Evasion is a legitimate way to deal with the Rodneys of the world. Absent the strange slow motion disaster of watching Rodney drool coffee on… well everything… life became a bit more peaceful. A few years later I left and got a job in a different industry; taking my personal coffee pot with me. I presume Rodney is still where I left him. Their coffee station has surely fostered new life forms amid it’s lively microbial activity.

That was eons ago. How odd that my little tractor’s oil leak jogged my memory.

Back to the present; “If you manage to keep running through the spring” I patted the tractor’s battered old hood “I might try to fix that leak.” I promised. First of all I keep my equipment to be in as good repair as I can afford. Second, I can’t be having Rodney flashbacks. I think I’ll stop writing now and clean out the sugar bowl. One can never be too sure.

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About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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10 Responses to Tractor Oil and Rodney’s Coffee

  1. KA9VSZ says:

    And lo, the Rodneys of the world make me see the wisdom of working alone all these years. Good luck on the tractor. I spilled a little of my blood on a repair today so I’ll put in a good word on your behalf with the gods-of-the-machines-who-must-be-appeased. Think spring.

  2. MaxDamage says:

    That tractor is a Fordson, isn’t it? Take it from a ’48 Ferguson owner, oil leaks are essential to the proper care and operation of the equipment. Oil prevents rust that has cars not even a quarter of the tractor’s age reduced to a slight reddish mark on the ground of a junkyard. Oil leaks also serve as a visual aid that the fluids are at the proper level. If the tractor quits leaking, it’s probably out of oil.

  3. Joe in PNG says:

    Speaking of oil leaks, I had a 1982 Honda XL 250 that had a few leaks and seeps- I used to tell folks that the caked dirt on the engine was keeping the oil in.

  4. daniel quinn says:

    I recently found you in the ehter(at the behest of BustedKnuckles I believe),and I would just like to thank you for making bad days just a little lighter.I’m just a poor West Virginia boy take my small pockets of joy where I can find them.

  5. Doubletrouble says:

    Congrats on the victory!

  6. Squatlo says:

    I’ve met a few Rodneys in my time, and you’ve nailed it! We used to call a guy I worked with “Laptop” because he’d feel obligated to “download” whatever was on his mind to whomever was within earshot, all while putting his cigarette breath in your face as he recounted the details of his last encounter with management. You could watch him talk to a manager for thirty seconds, then he’d stroll over and give you a line by line transcript of the conversation, and it would take fifteen minutes.

    Oblivious, and proud of it… He’s one of the reasons I started my own bidness and work alone these days.

  7. tamslick says:

    Oh, dear gawd I laughed so hard I nearly peed myself. This is a true gem. Take a bow.

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