Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ordinary summer day

by Claudia Rey

Late morning, mid August. It’s a beautiful day, there are some errands that have been long postponed, and the township offers free parking for one more week. Why not go downtown, she decides.

She drives quietly for a while, careful as usual. She never rushes, and why today of all days? The traffic is sparse, lots of people have left, the streets are nearly empty. She thinks of the different things to do. And suddenly… screech, whack, bang! A white van rams into her little car. “Oh, Christ” she whispers. The van had right of way. She should have stopped and she didn’t.

But she has stopped now. Gingerly she tries to open her door and sees that it is bended at an ugly angle. The side window has exploded in a million green shards that cover the car’s floor and her skirt. More of them are scattered on the street. The whole scene looks unreal. The silence is eerie.

Stepping from the car she absently brushes the shards away, without checking if one of them has wounded her. She is too busy gripping her purse and car keys – mainly to prevent her hands to shake.

Three men from the van surround her. “Are you all right?” they ask. She nods. “Are you sure? Do you want to sit down?” “Heavens, no” she says, “I’ve been sitting until a minute ago…” One of them insists: “Wouldn’t you like some water?” “I would love a coffee” she answers, “but let’s think about this business first.” So the man calls the police and they start waiting.

Within five minutes two guys appear out of nowhere. They are not policemen nor curious passers-by: one wears an overall, the other a polo shirt, both have a logo embroidered on the breast pocket. Tow Service So-and-So… Repair Shop This-and-That. Two big tow trucks are parked nearby.

“Who called these two vultures?” she whispers.

“They probably have radios tuned to the same channel as the police” explains one the men from the van.

They wait some ten minutes more – the two vultures lingering in the background. Meanwhile the day has become warmer, then positively hot. Finally two policemen arrive on their motorcycles and start collecting information, writing down details, asking questions. Quick, efficient, very polite.

One of the tow guys notices that the policemen are nearly finished and approaches her. “You probably need to take you car to a repair shop, right?”
“Right, but I already called the free service from my insurance company” she lies. “Thank you.” Then she really starts phoning. The tow service is not so easy to obtain, and finding an open repair shop in August is even more difficult. It’s two o’clock, everyone is probably having lunch – if they are not already on holiday – and no one answers the phone. Finally an address is found. Her car is secured on the platform of the tow truck, she climbs up near the driver, and off they go.

The repair shop they reach after a long journey is closed for the holidays. A second one they try is closed as well. She has to phone the insurance company each time, to have the authorization to take the car to a different address. It’s half past three, and the driver starts to look slightly nervous.

In the end, he suggests the same garage his truck comes from, and the insurance company agrees. She enters a cool office and gratefully accepts a seat and a soda. The garage owner fills some forms, an agreement is reached, she signs the papers and is assured that her car will be ready as soon as possible.

She finally calls a taxi and gets home at half past five. Her sister has phoned her: she returns the call, explains her predicament, receives some words of praise: “How brave you’ve been, I don’t know how you managed so well, I would have panicked.” “Well, thank you…” she smiles before replacing the receiver.

And this is when she collapses and starts crying. She is so tired to be strong and independent, she wants to be consoled like a little girl who scraped her knee. She wants a band-aid and a glass of milk and a cookie. And a healing kiss from her mum. Maybe a drink would be just as good? But she hates whisky and never buys it.

So she blows her nose and makes herself a black, strong coffee with lots of sugar and cream. Adult comfort food.

No comments:

Post a Comment