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.