It takes a lot of work to get really dirty.

After twelve hours of a certain kind of labor, you accumulate more than a layer of dust, grease, or whatever. It becomes an integral part of the fabric of your clothing.

When you move, it moves with you. You breathe it.

 It crystallizes in your nose and at the corners of your eyes. It exhales an almost imperceptible haze that you feel more than you see. I kid you not.

One fantastic aspect of the whole becoming-one-with-dirt thing is that it gives you the most amazing grip. With a little pipe dope, a little PVC glue, and a generous grinding-in of red South Carolina clay, nothing slips from your fingers. It also stops the bleeding of little nicks and scratches–no bandage necessary.

This afternoon, I could feel grit in my socks when I crawled out from under the house and saw the new unit I had just helped install. It was right where it was supposed to be, and it seemed to belong there. It was immaculate. 

New. All stainless silvery stuff and flawless paint. The copper joints were smoothly soldered, a rainbow of colors the torch had revealed now covered by a layer of carefully-applied foam insulation. The whole machine sat on a brand new sharp black curb.

And despite my (I hope) generally tasteful view of what is attractive and what isn’t, at the end of today that Trane air conditioner appeared crisply, refreshingly beautiful.

The two-horsepower motor purred to life.

I choked on the dirt I was trying not to inhale and made haste to scour my hands of their textured contamination (and an incidental layer of skin) when I realized what I was thinking. Because I know–really, I do–that there’s nothing beautiful about an air conditioner.

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