the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

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by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It all started with Big D. I saw him with his water truck, vaccum and rags in the lot behind our co-housing community. He was waxing a car and it was shining. I mean really shining. I felt a brief moment of clean car envy, but I shrugged it off and turned down the road on my bicycle, leaving our dirty little cars behind.

The next time I saw him wasn’t so simple. Big D was wiping down another car, inside and out and and it glittered – almost “happily”. My Pruis and Jerry’s Bio-bug sat nearby, dusty and dull. I took note of Big D’s system – no running hoses (his portable, non-potable water supply seemed to be used extra sparingly), no strong chemical smells, just some good old-fashioned hard work and elbow grease. I know, I’m the girl who thinks the need for clean cars is simply part of our American pathology, but this time, I just had to talk to Big D.

Donald and I had an enjoyable conversation – he smiled a lot as he explained that he wanted to make this his “retirement” job – work he enjoyed, that was much easier than the hauling and loading he had been doing for years. I watched him work on those other cars – not much of it looked easy to me – but I took his word for it. He took a look at my two cars gathering dirt and dust, gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I made an appointment for the next week.

Our cars still don’t get out much, but they look darn happy sitting in their spots with a gleam in their headlights. Big Donald explained the importance of an occasional waxing and I will admit that afterwards, my first generation Pruis looks years younger. The best part, of course, is that I’m participating in the loop of local economy and helping a hard-working person work a little less hard and enjoy a new line of work. In fact, I started daydreaming about how to make Donald the official detailer for the neighborhood…

I’m reminded that everything we do is best done on the middle path. I still don’t feel we need to wash and polish cars as often as we do, or justify using large amounts of potable water to do it. I think many of us can reach a point of driving less, car-sharing or kicking the car habit completely, and that that waterless car wash products will play a role in our future. I have managed to drive little and may even go totally car-free when possible. In the meantime, I’m glad I found Big D and I’m glad he can clean more and haul less.

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