Mar 18, 2008

Mighty, mighty acolyte

A darling girl in our church, Colleen, served as acolyte last Sunday.

The major duties of the acolyte are:
  • At the beginning of worship, light the altar candle.
  • At the end of worship, carry the flame from the altar candle down the center aisle.
The main tool for these duties is something that the internet has taught me is called a Candelighter (and here I was all prepared for the device to have a weird name) that also features a little cup that acts as a snuffer. A wick runs through the long handle of the Candlelighter; you push a little handle to feed wick to the end of the tool.

The wick burns down quickly, so you have to keep pushing the handle up, or it won't stay lit.

This past weekend, Colleen exhibited notable courage in the face of severe lighting and snuffing challenges.

First of all, she had to light the candle blind. Since her last tour of duty, the candle has melted enough to develop quite a divot around its wick ...

... so the acolyte has to lower the flame below the top rim of the candle to reach the wick. Colleen's not tall enough to see over that rim. She could only see the top of the flame from the candle after it was lit. Hence, she had to light blind.

Conversely, as the service was concluding, Colleen also had to light the Candlelighter blind. Meaning that she had to lower the wick of the Candlelighter where she figured the flame must be and then raise the Candlelighter to see whether its wick has caught. She had to dip in there a few times before she had her Candlelighter's wick going.

Then came the snuffing.

Colleen found that the candle's divot wouldn't let her lower the snuffing cup enough to do its job. Little streams of air snuck in under the edge of the cup and kept the flame alive. She made one, two, three attempts. Finally, she had to press the cup down on top of the candle with extra firmness ...

... until finally she pulled it up and saw wispy smoke that meant a successful snuffing.

Only by then, the wick of the Candlelighter was also extinguished. Remember, it burns down quickly.

Collen pushed up the handle in hopes that there was enough spark on the end of the wick to bloom into flame, but alas, it was not to be.

The pastor smiled and waved Colleen on down the aisle. She did so with a bit of a hitch in her smile, but with her head held high. Hey, that flame is just symbolic after all. It was a nice reminder that the true light of Christ burns within.

Someone (maybe it will be me) needs to take that divoted candle in hand and shave off the rim until the wick is once again standing in the clear. To each of us who didn't think to do that yet, I say: Ya Goof!

Mar 14, 2008

Looked who showed up for the show

A significant percentage of the readership of (Okay, one person; still a big chunk of the audience) has correctly pointed out that it's high time for a post.

The thing is, out-of-town visitors got us out of our humdrum routines. But it was definitely worth it. If not for these visitors, there would be no YaGoof.

That's right, my parents came to town.

They were here to see Ethan and Emmett appear in Willy Wonka, Jr, a musical play version of Charlie and the Cholcolate Factory. Ethan played the father of Charlie; Emmett played—oh, what's his name? The character who sings "The Candy Man Can." Give me a few minutes, it'll come to me.

It was not a trip without goofs. Let the tally begin ...

Amtrak's Vermonter line, bearing my parents, was due into Union Station in Washington, DC, at 10 pm last Thursday. That was the best mass transit option that we found. They would board in Vermont and disembark in DC after a cushy ride of only eleven hours. (Nothing to it!) One alternative was coming straight to the nearest train station, in Altoona. That sounds good, but it wouldn't have been a straight trip; with layovers in New York and Boston, it would have meant 21 hours. (A travel duration that we ended up giving a run for its money, but that's getting ahead of the story ...)

Janet and I left home at 6 pm, and had a nice drive to DC. We hit the Beltway at about 9:00. In a jiffy, we were in sight of downtown, where Union Station is.

But 45 minutes later, we were still hunting for Union Station. Curses on thee, thou steaming pile of wrong turns!

We used to drive to DC regularly several years ago, when Janet had an internship at the Library of Congress. We both remembered driving in and out as being a piece of cake.

Piece of cake. Riiiiight.

Were our navigation problems this time due to age? Changes to the streets? Fatigue? (Feel free to email other suggested excuses.) At any rate, we made it to Union Station only a couple minutes before the 10:00 train. Only to find that ...

As soon as we entered the lobby, the status board told us the 10:00 train would arrive at 11:00.

In reality, it came in at 11:02.

And then ...

We drove around and around and around trying to find our old favorite exit route, Connecticut Avenue. On the bright side, Janet and I renewed our tag-team mapreading skills. Meaning that whenever we'd find ourselves off track, I'd pull over and we'd scour the route and plot the next step. Then Janet would trace our progress with her finger. Get lost. Repeat.

We zigged and zagged for about an hour and a half extra and ended up depositing Mom and Daddy at their preferred motel in town at 3:00 am. A trip of only 18 hours for them. (Note: Still a savings of 3 hours over the bus route!)

Except for the guys being part of a smash performance!

Well, there was one little thing ...

He couldn't remember the number after stepping out for a minute, so he had to stop in at the office and find out what it was. "You're not the first this has happened to," the attendant assured him.

And there was another excellent play performance!

And it turned out that Janet's mother has a Garmin Navigator in her car that she would let us borrow for the return trip to DC. She showed us how to use it, we gave it a trial run—things were looking up! That eased our minds a little about our impending need to get up at 3:00 am to make it to Union Station on time for my parents' return train. Except that last Sunday, 3:00 am was 2:00 am because ....


And naturally ...

No matter what we tried, the screen kept telling us "GPS OFF." So we had to resort to the trace-the-route-by-the-finger-in-between-instances-of-pulling-over method.

But we did make it to the train on time.

After consulting the Garmin manual when we got home, we learned that when the unit loses its connection to the satellite, you need to take it out of the car to an open area, away from buildings and trees, to re-establish the link. That worked.

All in all, a pleasant and memorable time with ample opportunities to say ... YaGoof!