How dire must the circumstances be before you start to shave the edges off your principles? In my case, apparently not that dire. Does it matter if I didn’t go looking for help? Probably not.
We recently suffered a wild winter storm here in Boston. Freezing temps on top of torrential rains. There really wasn’t much anyone could have done with the shit storm it left behind. Perhaps if I’d gotten out during the actual storm and tried my hand at shoveling or salting or whatever one does in the face of frozen slush by the bucketful. But I didn’t. So the following day, a holiday-Monday, under eye-wateringly-cold but deeply blue skies, my car was frozen, a solid giant block of ice, right where I’d left it all weekend. As luck would have it, I had places I absolutely needed to be. I’d picked Joita up at college at the beginning of the storm (two days prior) because she was slated to have a medical procedure on this Monday. But as I’ve already said, my car was encased in a good 8 inches of ice and salt from the plows, creating a cement-like tomb of rock-hard mass. And me without a pick-ax. My plastic ergonomically correct shovels bent and bounced almost comically off the surface with nary a nick. No matter how creatively I swore, I was still staring at the same solidity. I kicked, cursed and cried to no avail. I hailed a neighbor for help. He came with his metal spade and together we chipped slowly away, taking turns with the shovel.
After more time than I want to even recall I was able to get into my car. Tears and snot frozen on my face, creating the worst *ugly cry* ever, I got the engine to turn over. But it wasn’t the only thing to turn. My tires spun and spun in their icy caverns, making a sound nearly as unpleasant as a dentist drill, and creating thick black smoke as the rubber literally burned off my brand new tires. Commence more ugly crying.
Time was ticking and I really needed to get my kid to the doctor. She actually had two separate medical appointments this day at two different hospitals. Emily suggested we Uber to the first one. Man, I’m fucking old. We actually used Lyft and thank goodness my kid is more tech-savvy than I am. Because I was looking for the phone number (in an actual Yellow Pages phone book) for a cab company that was a crap shoot in their prime in the 80s.
One appointment down, we Lyfted back home to find my car in exactly the same predicament. I started whimpering. All I could think to do was rev the engine and spin the tires more. I got out and hacked at the ice around the car until I couldn’t feel my fingers and was fairly certain my toes had snapped off in my boots, sliding and clicking around in the toe portion like tiny ice cubes. With more frozen tears and snot, I was losing my shit and fast. I’m no Elsa. I couldn’t even contemplate a Lyft as the second hospital was 35 miles away and there was just too much for me to figure out without adding another moving piece to the puzzle. As I considered my non-existent options, a large Ford pick-up-truck-plow rumbled down the street. You know that cat in the Shrek movies? Yeah, I made that pathetic please-dear-lord-help-me-for-fucks-sake face.
As the truck headed my way the driver came into focus.
Remember when I wrote about the guy around the corner who had the “Get on board or get run over” Trump train yard sign? Yeah. It was him. I stood there numb. My other neighbor, the one who had already given me all the help he could by loaning me his spade, was coming out of his house watching the scene unfold.
So there I was, standing frozen in front of my house which is festooned with a giant rainbow peace flag and signs that say things like, “In OUR America” and “Love trumps hate”. Standing next to my pathetically immovable car with the “Black Lives Matter” and “prays well with others” bumper stickers. Looking miserable and pathetic and undoubtedly exactly like the inept loser libtard he will describe me as when regaling his friends at a later time. I couldn’t even meet his eyes.
He drove past me and spun around in the intersection, coming back and screeching to a stop just ahead of my car. He got out and surveyed the situation while I swallowed all that was left of my pride. Neither of us made eye contact. I will give him this… there was not a hint of gloat about him. “Yeah, seeing a lot of this today.” He said, “Nothing to do but tow. Got nothing to catch onto.” He walked to the back of his truck and grabbed a tow rope. He got on his knees and shimmied under my car, mindless of the dirt, snow and sludge getting all over his pants, to tie the rope. Then, continuing not to look at me, he walked to his truck. Over his shoulder he said, “Get on in and when the rope tightens give it some gas.”
In less than 90 seconds my car was unstuck, idling unsteadily on the paved road. I got out of my car as he was pulling himself out from under my car again, having untied his rope but still not wiping off his now filthy pants. “Thank you. I mean, thank you so much. I really appreciate your help,” I stammered and gushed simultaneously. He shrugged, got into his vehicle and left. I turned around and looked into the smirking eyes of my other neighbor. “Towed by the Trump train,” he said jokingly, “You are never going to live this one down.” I hung my head in mock shame. In the meantime, I was able to get Joita to the appointment. And on time.
What was I supposed to do? Refuse his help because I disagree with his (dumbass) politics? If the situation had been reversed, and I’d been able to help him (say he was in spiritual distress and needed a prayer), would I have? I’d like to think I would. Still, I felt unsettled, maybe a bit of shame, over what I’m not even sure. All I can say is that *good* was not an emotion I would ascribe to how I felt about the whole interaction.
The next day was Tuesday, my day off, my baking day. Mr. Trump-voter was still on my mind. So I set aside some whoopie pies and a few raspberry brambles I’d made. I packaged them nicely and picked out a “thank you” card from our stash. Not for the first time I realized I didn’t even know his name. I went with, “Dear Neighbor”. I kept the note short and sweet and went to his house. I could see lights on, thought, in fact, that I could hear a television (“Fox news no doubt” I thought to myself) as I rang the doorbell. I heard muttering and smelled cigarette smoke. I saw no one. I waited on his porch shivering and rang one more time. Which only resulted in making the dog bark in a higher pitch frenzy. I awkwardly opened the storm door, gingerly placed the package between that and the front door and I left. My relief was enormous, propelling me down his front stairs with such force I missed the last step and almost fell. When I walked my dog later that evening I noticed that my package was still there.
It was gone the next day and I breathed another sigh of relief, we were even.