Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

Like Tennesse Williams' Blanche DuBois, "I have always relied on the kindness of strangers." So when my car door accidentally shut and locked this morning at the recycling center, leaving me on the outside and my keys, cell phone, and wallet with spare key and AAA card on the inside, I looked around for help. The man who guards the dumpsters was in his little building and I sought him out. He had no phone, but did have a CB radio and and offered to call the police to get someone to bring a Slim Jim -- that flat metal thingie they can slide between the window and the door to open the lock. I wasn't sure; I thought I remembered from the last time this happened (maybe seven years ago, at a different location) that the locksmith who came said that the Slim Jims could damage these newer electronic locks.

My husband has a spare key to the car -- but he was at work in his woodworking shop back at the farm -- no phone. Both my sons live a stone's throw from the shop and one works at home -- all I needed was to call and ask whichever one I got to go explain to his father that his mother had done a really dumb thing and needed some help -- in the form of the spare key. So, accosting a man who was dumping his garbage, I explained my situation and asked to borrow his cell. No problem; glad to be of help. Unfortunately, all I got were answering machines -- on which I left weird semi-coherent messages. Meanwhile, another man was eyeballing my car door -- which, though locked, had not closed tight. "I can get in here," he told me, wiggling his fingers in the crack. "I just need a coat hanger." Luckily, this being the dump and recycling center, a coat hanger was available.

A little fiddling, a little re-shaping of the coat hanger to provide a loop at the end, and he'd done it! I asked what I owed him (the standard thing to say around here) and he said, "You don't owe me a thing (the standard response). Then he narrowed his eyes. "You're not from here, are you?" he asked. I admitted the truth -- I'm one of those damn Florida people; I've only lived here thirty-two years.

We had a great conversation -- he grew up here but lived in Louisville for many years. Now he's retired, back living on the old home place, and raising mushrooms. When I told him we had a few shitake logs and my husband had just ordered spawn for oyster and chicken of the woods mushrooms, he gave me his card and invited us to come see his farm. Turns out he knows my web mistress, who also grows shitakes commercially, and, what's more, he's her husband's second cousin. We had just finished our chat when a pickup truck from the fire department arrived, in answer to the dumpster guardian's call. I waved my thanks from inside my car where I was leaving fresh messages on my sons' phones, telling them that I'd been rescued.

What started as a major hassle and waste of time, turned into a really pleasant experience -- the rewards of life in a small county. And many thanks, Mr. Treadway, we'll be over to see the mushrooms soon!
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