• Jae

My Friend Z

A Zamboni is typically known as the machine that cleans the ice at hockey games or ice skating competitions. My Zamboni (Z for short) is actually an Admiral 32 Floor Scrubber. It has large scrubbing brushes on the bottom that can only be seen by laying on the floor and shining a flashlight into its dark underbelly. It has a thirty- gallon tank that holds hot water and cleaning solution. It has a clean water sprayer that goes through the brushes and a squeegee vacuum cleaner on the back that picks up the dirty water and drops it into another holding tank. Its top travel speed is about ¼ mile per hour. It is like a giant, riding shop vac. Its orange and gray. See photo.

My Friend Z

My Z had been out of commission for about a week when Stan, a new technician that appeared in my life quite unexpectedly, exactly when I needed him, came out to the Food Bank to replace the parts that were needed to bring the machine back to life. Stan also conducted a thorough examination of Z. He spent two hours fiddling with things, adjusting here, greasing there, cleaning a filter underneath. By the time he left, my Z was running better than it ever had. I put it on the charger to get the batteries full of juice, excitedly thinking about the next morning's ritual floor scrubbing.

Imagine my disappointment when I went into work the next morning to find that Z had been used by one of the warehouse folks after I left the day before. It was obvious because it was off the charger, the sink was full of debris from emptying it and the waste hose was closed off tight. I mean- I will always welcome an extra hand in cleaning up the warehouse so I don't want to sound ungrateful but damn it – clean up the sink, put it back on the charger and leave the waste hose a little bit loose so my old, arthritic hands can open it up without asking someone to help me do it. Plus – this was to be the virgin run in its nice new top running condition. I felt robbed.

One of the best parts of my day at the Food Bank is 6:45 am. No one except maybe the warehouse supervisor is around yet. It is quiet. The racks of food stand ready like rows of tidy soldiers. My first job of the day is to make sure that the dirty, dusty concrete warehouse floors are clean and ready to be messed up again when everyone else gets to work.

One Warehouse Row atop Z

It is hard to climb up on Z because my legs are not as bendy, my arms are not as strong as they were in younger days. Plus, I'm short. And fat. Once I've wrangled Z into position, I grab the steering wheel, swing my stubby leg up to plant one foot as firmly as possible on the floor board (which is 18 inches off the ground), push off hard with my other foot and haul my butt up into the seat. I turn the key. I push the button that sprays the water through the scrubber brushes. Z comes to life with parts clanging and banging into their proper places. As I push gently on the go pedal Z hums its morning song of whirring brushes, spraying water, screeching squeegie-ing and the most satisfying resonant whooshing sound of dirty water being sucked up the vacuum hose into the dirty water holding tank.

Spending time, creeping along slowly in long rows across all of the warehouse floor atop this machine is the most Zen time of my day. It allows me to go to a zone way inside my mind where creativity lives. Here, I visit my muse. Like a humming bird, she flits around me buzzing in my ear, bringing me treasures to explore in bits and pieces. When she flies off and I'm alone with my thoughts, sometimes I plan my day, or my week, or my month. Sometimes I try to plan my life. But we all know how that ends up so I just chock up those thoughts to imagination. Other times, I reflect on and think of solutions for problems that need solving. Many times, I focus on my feelings ranging from anger and sadness about the horrific events happening around the world to glorious joy and gratefulness for all the good light that shines on and around me.

Looking out Front atop Z

The point is that using this machine gives me a ritual that brings me peace and prepares me for whatever the day is going to throw at me. Spending time with Z feels like spending time with an old friend. A machine cannot be friend though. I am simply my own best friend when I am with Z.

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