Category Archives: personal testimony

history of personal belief and transformation

Full Service!

 

Crossing traffic was difficult to impossible just beyond the I-90 Interchange on 97. Yet, though Country Fair’s prices were consistently 5c below the average at this juncture, the Kwik Fill directly across was prepared to compete – and, the sign said Full Service. Since my windshield wash hadn’t been spewing any fluid since the inspection, and I was heading north, this was a no brainer; Kwik Fill would get my business.

I pulled up next to the open pump. The service representative, bundled in jacket over hooded sweatshirt, was pumping gas for a vehicle on the opposite side, but tapped on my passenger side window. When I rolled it down, he asked me what gas grade I wanted. I told him I would also like him to check my windshield washer receptacle, as it may be blocked or leaking. He walked away, to complete the sale on the other side, and then returned, asking again if I wanted to fill the tank. I said yes, and popped the hood, feeling the pump nozzle enter my car’s gas receptacle.

By now, he had come around to the front of the car. Again, I declared that I wished to have the wash receptacle checked for leaks. He called out: “I can’t tell if there is fluid in the bottle. All I can see is the top of the bottle – it’s an entire bottle!” He seemed impatient.

I asked if the spouts might be blocked. He said that this was possible. And, he disappeared again – to serve another customer.

I looked back at the pump. The hose was draped across to my car, the nozzle inserted into my gas tank – but, the pump read 00.00

He came around again, to my passenger window, and asked if I’d like him to pour some fluid into the receptacle bottle, to test its contents. Good idea, I thought; I agreed.

While I watched him walk back to get what I thought would be a small amount of windshield wash, I saw him step across the draped pump hose. Calling out, I said: “Why does the pump read 00.00?!”  He looked at it. “Oh!” he said. And, stepping to the pump, he engaged the gasoline stream.

Then, he walked up to the open hood and poured fluid into the receptacle bottle. Three seconds later, a man in a truck being serviced called out: “It’s full!”

When I asked why the wash wasn’t reaching the windshield nozzles, he said it might be the motor. “Motor?!” I said, incredulous. Then, he said, “You’ll have to ask a service station. I’m not a mechanic!”

Walking past the passenger side of my car, he shoved a large, nearly full bottle of blue washer fluid through the window, and said briskly: ” Three seventeen, 2019 prices”. Then, he pulled it back out of the window, and disappeared.

I was momentarily confused. Was he telling me the grade of the fluid, like one would confirm lubricating oil? I stared straight ahead, blinking my eyes rapidly.

When the tank was filled, I handed him my debit card, declaring “Credit, please”. Again, he said: “3.17, for the wash”.

The bottle. The entire bottle. He was charging me for the whole bottle of washer fluid!

I said: “You’re charging me for the whole bottle?!” He said: “I have to! You said you wanted me to test the receptacle!”  I said: “You never told me you would charge me for an entire bottle to do that. I would not have done this to you.”

Again, I stared. Through my soiled windshield.

He came back with my debit card, and the receipt for the gas, and as he set the bottle on the seat I handed him my credit card. He said: “You’ll have to come in [to the store] for this; I can’t sell you a product out here, because you have to sign for it.”

Getting out of the car, I moved deliberately. The sun was bright. The air was crisp, slightly warmer than it had been for much of the winter. Following him toward the store cubicle, I took my good old time. Walking with a slight strut, head high, I felt emboldened by every woman who had ever walked the earth.

Entering the cubicle, I submitted my card for payment. Another customer stepped in, behind him. When the transaction was complete, I stopped.

“Sir, this is a Full Service station. I expected that you would take a small amount of the fluid used to squeegee windshields to test my receptacle.  Why didn’t you squeegee my windshield?”

His eyes were a piercing blue, deeply set. Round face, bulbous features. His speech was rapid, aggressive.

“Ma’am, do you see how many cars going in and out of here? I’m alone here. I’m doing the best I can!”

“I’m sure you are. But, this being a Full Service station, you should have cleaned my windshield. Instead, you billed me for an entire bottle of windshield washer fluid. ” And, backing out toward the exit: “Sir, I worked in the service industry for five years, and I would never have done to you what you did to me, today.”

I was out the door. Heading back to my car, I looked at the woman stopped behind mine, and shook my head in warning toward her. Just a small service provided to my ilk, a woman in a world of men out to make a buck.

There is an 800 number on the Kwik Fill receipt. Just above it, the following question appears:

“How Are We Doing?”

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© 3/1/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

That Impeccable Word.

 

You know, those Four Agreements….

What a tough call.

At first glance, keeping our word impeccable seems easy enough. We imagine ourselves quite separate from those who would wish ill on others, or who would do anything deliberately which could damage another living thing.

And, then, a bug crawls across the sofa, and we smash it without a second thought.

Being emotionally available, and able to express oneself, is a two edged sword. On the one hand, those of us inclined can be counted on to be, at the very least, genuine; in short, we always mean what we say because our words come – albeit readily – from the latest, authentic impulse to pass through our cortex.

The fact that others may not wish to be subject to our earnest thoughts never occurs to us until, out of nowhere, we find ourselves avoided or dismissed.

Those who keep their emotional selves locked and loaded fare far better. Nobody ever knows what they are truly thinking or feeling, so being in the presence of such a person is no immediate threat to a stable social atmosphere. And, rooms fill with people who put forth little by way of authenticity, all of them interacting and exchanging with one another without rancor or incident. The play, within the play.

Keeping one’s word impeccable, according to the author of the book cited, is really about being sure never to allow a single disparaging comment to escape our lips or our pen. This rules out any expression of frustration, agitation, offense, or other negative feeling; in short, while we may feel it, we are not to speak it.

I wonder where the author puts his feelings about others’ behavior? Does he just ruminate, in silence? Perhaps he encases them in some fictitious character, so as to flesh out his reactions to them…

Does the scale of justice tip of some inherent volition?

I seriously wonder whose role it is to expose wrongdoing. Who protects others from exploitation, from malignment, from abuse? Who, or what, calls out the offender –  a lightning bolt, from God Almighty?

My grandfather was a street preacher. He roared his judgments across North Park Row to the center of State Street. He declared his beliefs, publicly. He held forth inside, as well, from the pulpit of the Gospel Assembly Hall on East Avenue. And, when the parents of a married woman were ex-communicated from the assembly because of their daughter’s behavior, he stood and loudly defended them. This action pronounced a reaction upon him by the one man permitted to do so; accused of “railing”, my grandfather was also ex-communicated from his beloved fellowship.

Whence the role of the impeccable word, here?

On this day which celebrates love in all its forms, perhaps we could spend a moment contemplating how we go about living in peace. Is it by turning a blind eye to corruption, to manipulation, to crimes against humanity?

Love, always. Bearing all.

Impeccably.

The ultimate call.

You tell me.

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© 2/14/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

John.

 

This is the place I never thought I’d be.

We anticipate the loss of family members. We agree ’til death do us part, at the altar.

But, John.

Did we all have one?

John was my first love.

By that, I mean John was the first who loved me, too.

We were 21. The setting was at once predictable and incongruous: a Bible conference. Yearly, those from among our fundamentalist sect knew full well that a week spent on the beautiful, sprawling, verdant campus of Grove City College would bring together all the young to wed. And, every summer, with manic anticipation, we girls would giggle our way onto the grounds in our newest Sunday fare, a wardrobe meticulously planned for each morning, afternoon, and evening of seven blissful days away from everyone else on the face of the earth. Jesus was the reason, but….the boys. The boys were what made the purpose desirable, irresistible, and unbearably delicious.

He’d been a stand out, from the first. Most of the young men English, Germanic or otherwise Midwestern, this one was short, honey haired, and Polish/Armenian?, with the most luminously large dark eyes in the room. And, those almond orbs had looked back at me across the gymnasium seating, meeting my own deeply set brown ones – fixed, locked, a slow smile on his mouth to confirm I wasn’t dreaming. I can’t remember anything that happened after that – until we stood, at dusk, on the sidewalk leading to the girl’s dormitory, he with his Bible clasped between both hands and his enormous dark eyes never leaving mine for a moment. With one hand he’d taken the tip of his index finger and touched the center of my belly, and a spark of fire ignited my whole body. I would not know this as a hormonal response. I wouldn’t care. Completely and without any hesitation I was his, from that moment until the end.

The end came harshly.

But, in between, the blush and glorious ecstasy of true love.

Seven years earlier, I’d had a brush with profound spiritual terror. Formal operational thought having kicked in spontaneously that summer, I’d gone in the space of one week at the conference from “ho-hum” to “Is God even real”? So agonizing and mind blowing was the maelstrom of doubt that, after two years of fixated poring over any literature on the subject available to me, I’d resigned to a detachment from all things related to religious faith in order to preserve my emotional sanity. If I didn’t think about any of it, then none of its power – good, or evil – could any longer either suffocate or scare me to death.

But, then, along came John.

And, he was, first and foremost, an intellect.

John wasn’t just the boy who’d been saved at age 14 from hallucinogenic drugs. He was a Christian thinker.

John was an apologist.

We spent that week facing headlong every dumbfounding question, he with his ready analysis, all delivered with the softest, most gentle timbral inflection. He eagerly addressed my countless questions with answers more stimulating than the next. The hours we spent in dialogue, about Francis Schaeffer, Rookmaker and, his beloved favorite, C.S. Lewis, long since ceased being numbered; they began directly after morning Bible study, continuing on the walk to lunch, resuming during the afternoons across the bridge, and persisted until the sun was soon to set, campus curfew tested by every tantalizing dilemma left for the next morning.

And, every encounter so sensate, he with his continuous caress. Every nerve ending, from the soles of my feet to the corner cubby of my frontal cortex, was electrically charged by his mind and body.

By the end of the week, I was committed. This boy was perfect, in every way. With him, I could return to a faith which was expansive, all encompassing; with him, I could find my identity both as an artist and a devout woman. He would be my husband, and I would be his wife, and we would be together forever.

But, melodrama would have its day.

Evil would cloak, and creep.

By the final morning of our conference that summer, word would leak; some girl with a crystallized reputation had let a story slip into the gossip chain, a shocking accusation which involved my John. And, so many of the women in attendance ripe for a life-affirming scandal, talk of it flew through the wireless air like emergency radio. I gave it all a mere passing scoff. Couldn’t be true; this was my man. If it were, so be it; he was still to be mine, God ordained. I’d never been more sure of anything in my life.

However, the hierarchy of control which held our desperate sect together had received their call to arms. By the time he’d arrived home to Baltimore, four men had already flanked him; ordering him to appear before their court, he was to accept their full assessment. And, their conclusion was swift: John was to be removed from the fellowship, and placed under an indefinite period of discipline.

I would have none of it.

Re-enrolling in college that fall, I would commence a switch from fine art to a rigorous major in music education with a looming recital requirement. After the six hours each day spent alone with my cello, he and I would spend as many, on the phone, four hours at a stretch, and every weekend he could not be with me. Once per month, he’d drive the spider infested rattle trap car with no heat that he got for one dollar all the way across Pennsylvania to western New York to be with me for two, enraptured days at school. For Christmas, I gave him the very first flip phone, so he could talk to me in private; from him, I received a diamond necklace, from Zales. This was a promise gift, he’d said.

My dreams grew. John was a pure math major, at Towson. Had a job, as a draftsman. I could transfer to Peabody Conservatory, where my professor was urging me to go, and switch to performance. When we got married, I could shoot for the Baltimore Symphony.

But, the tribunal would not be mocked.

His own mother, he’d said, was wondering about this girl from PA. She’d never even met me, but had come to an unsettling conclusion; I was too “independent-minded” for her son. I’d likely not be right for him, as a helpmate. Perhaps his disciplinary period should include time away from this relationship, to leave room for a companion more willing to subject herself to God’s authority.

Once again, my resolve deepened. Let anybody try to separate me from the love of Christ, as manifest in this, the love of my life.

Then, the letter came.

Hand writing in blue ballpoint ink, John poured out all his carefully analyzed reasons for ceasing our communication. For every in-depth conversation we’d created together, this was the razor’s edge. I was cut, and cut, and cut again.

Enraging grief overtook me. They had stolen him away. The whole army of them – the tribunal; the entire, alleged fellowship; and: his mother. This was beyond abandonment. This was destruction.

For weeks thereafter, I drifted. Tried a surrogate, a Jewish boy, same size, no further resemblance. Crushed on a pianist, who shared his dark eyes and gaze. Then, succumbed to the charms of a tall rock and roller, with similar intellect. He rejected Schaeffer’s apologies, writing blasphemous comments in the margins of the books John had sent me, and then dumped me for a psych major with buck teeth willing to go all the way.

I was lost.

We’d had one more chance, a few years later. I sang at his best friend’s wedding. We rode to DC, in the dark, and lay on the sidewalk under the stars at the Lincoln Memorial. But, I’d been spoiled. There was no going back. Not for me. I’d been all in, and left to paddle ashore alone. One doesn’t jump back into the brink.

He married, raised a family.  I married. Divorced.

We grew old.

Today, word came to me. This morning, John died.

And, I wept.

I wept for every moment of hope. For every chapter in the book that was never published. For all the dreams of that fantasy life of mutually deep and lasting love. And, for John, because he had to die at the hands of a disease which destroyed his body.

His mind and mine had been so beautifully aligned. Then, the stars of imperious power over the spirit crossed, and wrenched us apart.

Beyond all the horizons of deepening mystery, where we can all slip these bonds, know as we are known, and be together in one Spirit, there will be a place.

Save one for me, John.

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johnwhenilovedhim
John was a wonderful husband and father. He was committed, devout, devoted, hard working, loyal, faithful, and true. He and his wife Melissa had four beautiful children, all young adults now. May they all forgive and accept this tribute.

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© 1/21/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo    This is a tribute to John Licharowicz. Share with the author’s permission. Thank you for respecting his family, and the rest of the broken hearted.

littlebarefeetblog.com