Until the Job is Done

“How are we gonna load the kayaks without getting soaked?”

Our kayaking trip started three days ago in a humidex rating of 39C and a scatter of white fluffy clouds that provided little relief from the sun. It has now ended in dramatic wind gusts and storm cells producing twice the predicted rainfall. Our allotted time at our friends’ cottage has also ended: We all have to get home to our respective obligations.

For us, that means first loading our kayaks onto our car, after carrying them up from the dock where we abandoned them yesterday after getting caught in the rain. Loading involves lifting the kayaks into the roof-rack holders, and then strapping them down in a set procedure. In our ninth year of kayaking, we have this manoeuvre down to about 15 minutes.

We’re fair-weather kayakers, and that 15 minutes isn’t usually an issue. Usually, my biggest concern is to wear a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes as I stretch way over my head to properly thread two orange nylon straps through the roof-rack holders, preparatory to receiving the kayaks. Once a kayak is lifted into place, I flip the straps over it and feed them through the base of the roof-rack holder and back up through the ratcheted buckle at one end of the strap. Then I pull as tight as I can, get it checked for road-worthiness by the Big Guy, and tie off the dangling ends.

Ta da! And repeat, for the other kayak.

Finally, we attach the fore and aft straps that finish immobilizing the kayaks, anchoring them to hooks conveniently (if obscurely) built into the car’s undercarriage (I mean, what do non-kayakers use those hooks for?). Anyway, as I say, it takes about 15 minutes, and there’s no doing it any faster, not even in the rain.

I look outside. It’s still coming down steadily, punctuated by occasional bursts of torrential downpour.

“How are we gonna load the kayaks without getting soaked?”

The Big Guy doesn’t look up from his smartphone. “We aren’t.”

“When I’m working on the car, I dip my hands into a bucket of dirty, gritty oil, and rub a handful of it all over my face, into my hair, and up my arms.”

My 1972 face likely provides a window into, if not my soul, then at least my state of mind as I listen to a friend: surprise and puzzlement, primarily. Huh?

“Then I go look in the bathroom mirror,” he continues, “and say to myself, ‘This is what you’re gonna look like, and feel like, until the job is done.'”

Turning away from the memory and the window, I reach for my kayaking clothes, still damp from yesterday’s rain shower. As my skin flinches away from their cold clamminess, I jam my droopy hat on my head — this time, to keep the rain out of my eyes — and think, “This is what you’re gonna look like, and feel like, until the job is done.”

The dirty jobs in my life — such as they are — don’t go away, get done any faster, or get done any more easily, by me being reluctant to get dirty.



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4 Responses to Until the Job is Done

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Your point about getting the job done is compelling; your grease-bucket image less so. My own technique is more like imagining the job that I’m dreading — perhaps even afraid of — broken down into smaller components. I can handle that, I tell myself. And that. And that. And once I realize that no single part of the job is insuperable, I can then manage the whole job. Or so I tell myself, anyway.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – I guess it depends what the point of avoidance is. For some jobs, the complexity might overwhelm, and breaking it down is a good strategy. For other jobs, the imagined or actual discomfort involved in completion might be a significant disincentive to even start.

  2. John Whitman says:

    When I was an engineer field troop commander in Germany back in the mid-70’s, part of troop training involved constructing floating pontoon bridges for crossing rivers and lakes. The pontoons were delivered to the shoreline by truck and then inflated. Each pontoon was 15 to 20 feet long, about 8 feet wide and both ends were pointed. Once inflated, the pontoons were then lifted up and moved into the water, pointy end first, by a crew of 10 or 12, with 5 or 6 on each side of the pontoon. Needless to say, the troops closest to the water tried to get their end of the pontoon into the water and back away without getting into the water themselves. That involved a lot of stretching and awkward extensions – a sure recipe for strained backs and pulled muscles.

    The sergeant in charge watched the first pontoon go into the water that way and called an abrupt halt. He then lined the entire troop of 40 men up in 3 ranks and marched them all into the water until they were at least waist deep – he right along with them. “Now you’re wet! Now do it right!” were his comments, minus a few other adjectives.

    It wasn’t dirty work, but it was wet work and it did get done without injury.

    John W

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