When I shook his beefy palm, I could feel the hard callouses, like nobs on a bicycle tire. After a vice grip shake, he pulled back his gritty fist. That, and his other hand are both darkened after years of being splashed, and submerged in oil, lubricants, and gasoline. Those thick stubby fingers, are now permanently tattooed with his past projects. The solvents have seeped deep into the cuts, and heavily lined mitts. I Imagine, Sam, preparing for a wedding or a funeral scrubbing hose hands with a brush, only to pull back two deeply sanitized appendages, highlighted with dark lines, as if a mapmaker had sketched a series of dirt roads onto a weathered, peach colored map.
Sam Pittman works, and works hard for a blasting and vacuum company, and everything about him tells you that is true. His red, hooded sweatshirt is sprinkled with a sandy material, perhaps wood shavings. He looks as if he's been coated with a tasty cinnamon dusting.
He's talking to me today because his son Nathan, who had just been sentenced to 22 days in juvenile detention, was left, over night, for 16 hours in a holding cell at the Carbon County Courthouse. Nathan didn't have any food, water, or access to a bathroom.
Nathan, in a typical teenager costume, tells his story of inconvenience with a sly smirk on his face. "So," I ask him, "what did you do to get in trouble?" His smirk turns into a frown, as if he'd just been told to put away his book, and get ready for a pop quiz. Nathan was originally charged with disorderly conduct, and destruction of property, but that isn't why he was sentenced to those 22 days. Apparently his parents caught him smoking Spice, a synthetic form of marijuana, and guzzling cough syrup. Sam, essentially turned his son in, knowing that it would mean the 17 year old would be locked up for some amount of time, and that Sam himself, would likely have to put in some extra hours, to come up with the money to pay his son's fines or restitution.
Sam is articulate, as he digs his fingers deep into his tired knuckles and asks, "what if the building had burned down, or my son had a medical emergency?"
After Nathan tells me his tale, he adds that there is a silver lining. The courts have told him he doesn't have to serve the 22 days in DT because of the holding cell snafu. Nathan, was talking about a concert he was hoping to go to, now that he doesn't have to go to jail. Sam was talking about how he needed to go, because he had to return to work.
As I shook Sam's hand once again, and said goodbye, I remember being envious of those paws. My guess is, Sam can replace the transmission on his truck, put up dry wall, and construct a wooden fence in an afternoon. I sadly can do none of those things. I mean I've assembled a TV stand from IKEA, but that doesn't exactly qualify as manual labor. I am, I suppose, my father's son. Bill Jones was not the "handy," type. His thought was, "if you can pay someone to do it, then pay someone."
I thought about Sam, this morning when my wife Amanda suggested we take a wood working class, to which I enthusiastically agreed. I can imagine the two of us, surrounded by other Yuppies, drinking espresso, and Oolong tea, fumbling with a lathe, or trying clumsily to push a wood saw through a 2X4, attempting to learn the kind of skills in an afternoon, that guys like Sam have been acquiring their whole lives.