Friday, April 25, 2014

High Tempers at the Gas Station

A week after getting home from Michigan, I went on a Saturday to the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies, in Redwood City, to hear about careers in Buddhist chaplaincy. Topics included the Sati Center’s own Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program, and the Buddhist Chaplaincy master’s program at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, in Berkeley.

When I went to fetch the City CarShare Prius from the garage at 21st and Bartlett, I found the gas gauge on empty, a first. You’re supposed to return these cars at least half full of gas. Once or twice, I’ve gotten one that was a bit shy of that, but never one on empty. Also, I think a rear window was open, though maybe I accidentally did that myself in the course of things.

Fortunately, the steering wheel was so low I could barely turn it, which justified, sort of, calling the emergency number, so someone could tell me how to get the steering wheel not to be mashed against my thighs and I could also mention, hmmph, that the car was nearly out of gas. The associate I was speaking to said the previous driver would be fined. Yay!

I went to my regular gas station to fill the car up, using the CarShare credit card, but after I swiped it, I got a SEE AGENT message. The cashier said I would not be allowed to fill up, but would have to choose an amount. Since I rarely drive, I have little clue in that regard—$20, $40, $60? I decided to try $30, but then it turned out that the card was declined. At some point, I was returning to the cashier to continue our evolving discussion, and another customer thought I was cutting in line. I said mildly, “I was here before,” and he screamed, “Fuck you!”

I called City CarShare again and the person said I could use my own card and they’d reimburse me, so I did that, which had the benefit of allowing me to fill the tank (just over $30, so that guess had been good).

Then, finally, after by far the most hassle I’ve ever had with a City CarShare car—usually, everything is perfectly smooth—I drove down to Redwood City and arrived at the event thoroughly late. I found about 15 people sitting on chairs in a semicircle with two Zen Center folks up front. One was the Rev. Daijaku (Jaku) Judith Kinst, who is the director of the program at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, and the other was Ren Bunce, who works as a hospice chaplain. She told us all about her job, with commendable candor, and it was quite interesting. Later we heard from someone who had done the Sati Center program (and loved it) and then Jaku told us all about her program; she said that every one of their graduates immediately gets a job. To be a chaplain, an M. Div is required, or equivalent thereof, and accreditation by the Association of Professional Chaplains.

I love the idea of spending all day hanging around a hospice or hospital, meeting new people all the time, providing a kind human presence as best I can. Being a chaplain can also involve directing and organizing things, which I
m good at. That sounds like the perfect job for me, but the idea of getting an entire master’s degree in Buddhist studies is unappealing in the extreme. Im interested in the practice of Buddhist meditation and the benefits arising therefrom, not Buddhism as a religion. 

I will give Jaku a call one of these days and discuss the equivalent thereof. I think she said her program is 67 units. If you do the Sati Center’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program, that takes care of six of those units. That’s not very much. The Sati Center’s program meets one Friday per month with writing assignments in between, plus a volunteer commitment. It’s led by Gil Fronsdal (the founder of the Sati Center) and my very favorite Zen Center teacher, Paul Haller. I’m contemplating doing this program, but haven’t decided yet.

I left about 4 p.m. and once again disproved my theory that if you just drive in whatever direction for long enough, you’ll bump into the desired freeway on-ramp. I drove for quite some time, and knew that I must be going north or south, because I was on El Camino Real, but  wasn’t sure which, and finally had to ask someone for directions. Progress thereafter was swift.
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