The Kindness of Strangers

Kindness of strangers“Ok, let’s see…have we got everything?” I wondered, scanning the mound of stuff crammed into the passenger seat of our little car. The roads were congested and we were already an hour later getting out of the city. I’d had to arrange for the neighbour to pick Leela up from the sitter since I was going too late getting back to do it myself. But Cally was nestled comfortably in the back seat, piecing her paper dolls together, oblivious to the congested traffic surrounding us on all sides and my mounting anxiety.

“Mom, My throat hurts.” My four year old quietly whined from the back seat.

My reply was non-descript. Something between concern and annoyance. What could I possibly do about that in the midst of rush hour traffic, with a two and a half drive looming, supper still to make and then a mad scramble to get the bed time duties completed. A sore throat was the least of my concerns.

“My throat really really hurts…” she continued to whine, a little louder now. “I think I have to poop.”

My guphaw was barely concealed as mounting levels of concern and annoyance intermingled with grade-two humor . “Your throat hurts because you have to poop?”

Her watering eyes and genuine discomfort were enough to send me into distress. There was a real chance that my four-year-old’s poo-mergency could escalate into something smelly in the back seat. In a panic, I veered off the main drag and pulled into the first alley I could find. It was a quaint little neighbourhood with clean fencing to shelter my little girl from curious neighbours and plenty of garbage can in which I could ditch the ‘evidence’ once our business was completed.

Four-year-olds have plenty of strange habits when it comes to bathrooming. Cally’s current idiosyncrasy is complete nakedness. So there we were, buck naked and squatted in the alley. Cally let out the occasional whimper as she strained and grunted and I harmonized with her adding, “hurry up please” and “let’s go faster.” We were almost finished, we’d almost gotten away with it without interruption, without incidence when the bike pulled up.

“Oh!” I said with a start. Looked like the owner of the home we were defecating behind was home. While I’m not often given to embarrassment this was one of those moments when my face radiated a perfect shade of fuscia. “Umm..ah,” I fumbled, not really sure how to explain what he was witnessing.

“It’s OK,” he laughed and handed me a plastic bag. “Do you need anything else?”

“N-n-no.” I stammered and weakly squeaked out a thank you. Cally finished her blessed business and I quickly got her dressed and back into the car. The product of her labors was hastily scooped into the bag so helpfully provided by the home owner. But I couldn’t just put it in his dumpster- he’d know it was me. The smell would be a terrible way to thank him for the gratuitous use of the pavement behind his home. So I tied the bag tight and stuffed it in the trunk of the car.kindness of strangers 2

An hour and a half later and we were rolling along nicely. My relieved four-year-old was still contentedly playing with her paper dolls and I was settling into the relaxed state one occasionally enjoys when there’s nothing to do but drive and think. The roads were peaceful, the music serene, my child content, the weather beautiful and then…BANG!!!

The air pressure warning light illuminated instantly. “Oh man,” I commiserated, “Really?! A flat tire?” We lopped onto the first gravel side road I could find and thumped to a graceless stop. Now we were really going to be late. I’d have to cancel yoga. What a day! That was one moment when I was truly glad to have remembered my cell phone. It took five minutes to run down the student list and let everyone know there’s be no namaste this night. A dark truck rolled up beside me and when I looked up from my phone, I was met by a man with kind face and twinkling eyes.

“Have you got someone coming to help you?” he asked.

With the Ford Focus Driver’s manual in one hand and my phone in the other. I think it was pretty obvious that I was going to try to bumble my way through a tire change solo.

“Nope, just me” I replied. “I’m pretty sure I can do it myself,” I sputtered with false confidence. I had some serious doubts about whether I’d even be able to loosen the nuts.

He took one look at my dress and my flip flops and then jumped out of his truck. “I change tires all the time.” he volunteered. “I could have this fixed for you in five minutes. You wanna just pop the trunk?”

What luck! I thought. How fortunate that within minutes of being stranded I had a professional here to rescue me. This fortuitous turn of events would surely save me at least an hour of misery as I struggled with a stubborn tire.

I turned the key in the latch and hoisted the trunk open. The smell that wafted out and assaulted our tender nostrils was enough to knock out a Rhino. Oh yeah, the bag of poo- I’d forgotten about that.

“Ummmm ahhhh,” for the second time that day words eluded me and I repeated my earlier performance of transforming my light skin into a bright pink beacon.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said as I stammered out an explanation that sounded a lot like, “in a hurry…in the alley…kids…bag of poop.” He reached into the trunk, grabbed the offending sac and threw it into the field next to us. “Now,” he said, “we can get that tire changed.

He wasn’t kidding, he really was fast. It literally took four minutes and 27 seconds for Ken to remove the flat tire and replace it with the slightly less flat space. “You’ve still got quite a ways to go,” he warned. “You’ll want to take it slow- don’t worry about people passing you.”

I thanked my rescuer profusely and hopped back into the car, remembering to disengage the emergency brake. I waved as Ken drove off in a cloud of dust and then pulled a face when he swiftly returned.

“Don’t forget to take the emergency brake off.” he said. That, at least, I knew how to do.

The rest of the drive home happened at a painful 90 km/hr. Calixa, bless her little heart, played with those paper dolls the entire way and never made a peep. Once we finally pulled into the driveway I was thrilled (in an exhausted sort of way) to discover that Trevor had already bathed Leela and put her to bed. Cally made a special place in her closet for the paper dolls to sleep and then went to bed herself and I was just glad that the day was over.

It’s amazing to think that one day could be so crammed full of adventure- to exist as a challenge to my resolve, a test of my patience and to shake my faith in mankind. Luckily because of people like the nameless poo-bag-bicycle-man and Ken the super-fast-tire-changer my faith in mankind has not been shaken in the least. I can tell you, however, that I won’t be ready for another trip to the city for a long, long time.


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