Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers.

Life can throw some curves, can’t it?

I mean I had my first ever blowout there in the car with the winter tires (good woman that I am) on it. Not that they’re needed here in Newfoundland at the mo. We’ve just been having damp drizzle, occasional rain, a bit of wind, sometimes a bit of a gale, not enough to keep you in winter gear or anything, for the last month or so. After a three month fall which was lovely. Not a lick of snow yet. My herbs still fresh as daisies in the garden. Walks in a sweater or slicker every day. Long walks. Ne’er a boot has touched my feet yet.

But to get back to what I was saying. I’ve had slow leaks, mysterious flattenings of tires. But never a blowout.

You think you’ve been shot. That’s the first reaction. Bang, like a gunshot and the car slews sideways and makes a grinding noise all over. And you grip the wheel tightly, thinking steer into the skid, no: that’s for snow, stupid, hang on for dear life, any other vehicle around me? Oh, put on the hazards, Sweet Jaybuzz, I’m in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere. Turn off the Rolling Stones playing at full blast, idiot. Look at the dog looking accusingly at me. What has this dumb human done now? OK pull over. Slow like, real slow. Breathe. Now check for the bullet hole.

Oh dear Maude, would you look at the back left tire. What’s left of it. The rest is lining the highway for ¼ of a mile back there as far as the eye can see. And it’s smoking, looks like there was a bit of a fire on the rubber. Cripes, you’re some lucky woman. You coulda pitched off the mountain back there. Can you see that headline, ha? Would you be considered headline worthy? Nah. They’d do that awful thing they do, right? Women classified only by their biological function as in: “Grandmother dies a fiery death as her car careens off the TransCanada Highway after blowout.”

Lordy but it’s teeming rain, pelting off the car. And it’s darkening too, it’s 4 o’clock.

Ah, thank heavens for these wonderful Newfoundlandlers, always helpful, one will stop soon. I shoulda learned how to change a tire back in the day. Never needed to. How girly can one get? Now I'm payin' for it, I’m this idiot helpless woman at the side of highway. Call CAA. Oh boy. They can’t effing locate me. I’m miles from bloody everywhere. I can’t effing locate myself. I’m heading towards Goobies. Goobies. A one stop gas station, diner. No service bays. They can send someone from Clarenville. Two hours it’ll take. Two effing hours!!!

It’s 4.30 by now. No one has stopped. Is everybody going past me from out of province today? I have the hazards on, I have a pitiful expression on my face. Tears lurk. I’m frightened too of all the traffic rushing by. They could hit me. “Grandmother crushed by tractor trailer near Goobies on the TCH.”

5 o’clock. It's dark now. Someone in a black van is doing a dangerous u-turn right there, oh, gawd he could hit me. He’s going to hold me up. Take my wallet. Wake up dog! Look threatening for eff’s sake, bear your teeth or something. No, don’t grin, don’t wag your tail at the lovely man.

“That’s some awful blow-out!” He’s barely thirty, maybe younger, “Me and the wife just said we have to help that poor woman, so we turned the van around”.

He has no umbrella, he has no rain gear. He changes my tire in the pouring rain. He is drenched to the skin. He uses his own jack as it appears I don’t have one. I’m ready to go on my way in 5 minutes.

I insist, against his embarrassed refusals, on giving him money to buy himself and his lovely wife a warm dinner. My gratitude has me crying. To give of oneself so freely and in absolute and utter discomfort for another’s ease and comfort has me overwhelmed with emotion.

Would I? That’s the question that dangles there in front of my eyes as I head off on the spare tire. As I contemplate what a thin sliver hangs between ourselves and death on most days.

And a few days later – well, sin sceal eile as we say in Ireland – that’s another story.


  1. People's kindness is indeed overwhelming at times. I'm certain however that you deserved ever bit of that kindness. I'm delighted and relieved it all worked out okayt for you.

  2. The first thing you're going to learn to do is change a tire, right?

    You were lucky that that awfully sweet man changed your tire for you in that horrid weather, Thank goodness there are still good and kind people in the world.

  3. Kindness really comes when you are least expecting it - after an accident last year, whilst waiting for the tow-truck, I was taken in by an elderly couple who let me sit and shake in their living room for an hour. I didn't even get their names.

  4. oh golly this is scary. this has never happened to me ... yet.

    i'm glad you didnt' go off the mountain! and you and RC, both imaginging dire headlines in your brains. (i've done this too. thought it was the newspaper in me.)

    and i'm with conor--you deserve good treatment, and yet good treatment in dire times brings tears to all of us. it's as though we can finally relax and quit being so damn strong, and whooosh...

    so. what's the other story?

  5. So glad to hear all was well that ended well, WWW. "Angels" do exist in spite of our (my) cynicism!

    You write so well, it was a joy to read - especially in the notion that you must be okay or you wouldn't have been writing it! :-)

  6. A blowout on a lonely road, in bad weather, at dusk. Can't get much worse. It's daunting even when you do know how to change a tyre. I'm very glad you're okay.

    (Makes for the subject of a great story, though, doesn't it? Well written.)

  7. @Conor:
    We never think, do we, that we desrve good treatment, maybe tis the Irish in us!
    No, it's too late to learn, and I'd miss out on such incredible kindness ;^)
    OMG, how awful for you, glad you're OK and it seems the brain freezes, doesn't it. I didn't ask my man his name either!
    I've come up with the most ridiculous headlines, Laurie. other car story to follow.
    Yes, our angels are all around us, lurking in human shape!!
    Thanks, all it was short was a ghost!!

  8. Such spontaneous acts of kindness restore one's faith in human nature when so many other people are less than kind. But you should learn how to change a tyre - it's actually quite straightforward, if laborious.

  9. How unlucky and yet lucky in one stroke.

    what is fate trying to tell you I wonder?

    Newfoundlanders sound great. If any want to emigrate, send them in our direction please!

  10. I never cease to be amazed by the kindness of strangers. And the nice thing is that it only takes one kind stranger to cancel out a whole passel of nasty ones. Candles and darkness, eh? Glad you and the hound are fine, WWW.

  11. @Nick:
    My big fear is that the car will collapse on top of me, ridiculous I know.
    I think 'sloooooowdown' is one of the messages!
    you're absolutely right, yes we are both unscathed but so so grateful!

  12. WWW,

    How awful to have a blowout!

    Nick says changing a tire is actually quite straightforward - it is in theory. In reality nowadays it is quite difficult. The nuts are tightened by pressure machines and there is little hope of us women undoing them. Last time I tried (about six years ago) I managed to loosen three but not the fourth. 8am on a dark and wet Monday morning, the cars whizzed past.

    Eventually a burly young man stopped and even he had trouble. He was determined not to let it get the better of him and kept trying although he was tired and only finished a night shift as an ambulance driver.

    As he finally managed to remove the nut and change the wheel, he told me I would have had no chance of moving it on my own. Now I call the RAC.

  13. I am so glad you were ok and that the two lovely, kind people were driving by.
    I wonder what causes a blowout like that! So dangerous. Yes, so glad you and your dog were safe. *phew*

  14. @GM:
    I agree on the nuts and also the auto manufacturers don't supply jacks either. cheapskates so all in all a fairly helpless situation.
    Did you get the name of your angel I wonder?
    thanks, Gaye, apparently there was a spillage of some heavy duty nails that punctured the tire.

  15. Well, I admit I haven't changed a tyre recently. By the sound of it, I might call for help also. Why do the manufacturers make it so hard?

  16. Nick:
    They sell the car, rub their hands in glee and say, "Next sucker please?"
    I can't believe they don't supply jacks anymore!!
    And those plastic spares, awful.


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