Seattle’s First Avenue South drawbridge needs only small electric motors to open and close for ship traffic on the Duwamish River. It opened this evening as I raced toward it on my way to the driving range. I should have remembered the bridge operator senses my impatience and tight schedules.
When the bridge opens and car traffic stops, most drivers remain in their seats with their engines idling. But some of us veterans prefer to shut our engines and radios off and get out to stretch our legs. As I strolled to the bridge railing to photograph the silently rising deck, the driver of a nearby SUV walked over to greet me.
“You want see two roast pigs?” he asked in broken English.
He was a small Filipino man with front teeth missing from his broad smile. He asked again. “You want see my roast pigs?”
“Sure!” I answered.
I have this experience often. Strangers introduce themselves as if my face has the shape of a friendly question mark. The man led me to the back of his SUV and lifted the hatch. Lying side by side on the floor in two long, foil-lined boxes were two perfectly browned pigs, stretched out like supplicants before an alter. Despite the context of stopped traffic on a busy American highway, they looked shockingly beautiful. Rather than dead, they looked proud and sanguine, as if they had volunteered from their herd.
“They for a christening,” the man said as he adjusted the foil near the plump snout of the pig on the left.
“A christening? That’s wonderful. Congratulations!” I told him as I held out my hand. But the man stepped back a little, explaining, “Oh, no. The pigs, they not for me; they for a friend. Whenever there a christening, everybody ask me roast pigs for them.”
I held out my hand once more. “Please, offer your friend my congratulations.”
This small re-direction made all the difference. The man vigorously shook my hand, saying happily, “Thank you very much! I tell him.”
As the drawbridge began to close, he shut his hatch, smiled once more, and returned to his driver’s seat. I waved to him and returned to my car. The two halves of the heavy bridge united, returning patience and order to the road.
I didn’t know the man I met. Yet, I understood the meeting. Two small motors can move two thousand tons of steel, but two small pigs can move two thousand years of faith.
June 26, 2011