Stuck in a cemetery
Apr 11, 2011
No I’m not turning my blog spot into a gothic fiction venue. I learned last week that positive experiences can come out of even bleak circumstances. I had taken a day to travel out of town to attend the funeral of a dear uncle. The funeral ended mid-afternoon, and so I thought on my way home I would stop in to check on my parents’ plot. I’m not one for doing much tending, as I am rarely in the area, but the circumstances of the day suggested this would be a good time to do so.
It was late afternoon, with the sun close to the horizon when I reached the cemetery. A hilly piece of land, with a grotto running through its midst, it was clearly chosen for its use because its rocky hillocks and marshy low points suited it for little else. Nevertheless, it is an inviting place, as far as cemeteries go. Its frost-tilted stones and markers are snugged together, a sign of a close community and generations of families wanting to have their remains near each other. Many a stone bears a story of more than dates of births and deaths. It is a place that holds much history for those who bother to wander its ways.
On this particular visit, I chose not to wander on foot, but instead drove to the secluded corner where my parents’ remains rest, next to those of their own parents, siblings and in-laws. While patches of snow lingered in places where the Spring sun has yet to complete its work, the family plots were snow- free. There, I was able to spend a few moments reflecting my own mortality in black granite. Leaving a small pot of flowers to brave the late frosts, I returned to my vehicle.
The dirt lane way curved in a loop that would take me back to the main entrance of the cemetery. As I rounded a tight turn, I saw that the last hill had about 50 yards of a layer of snow in the laneway. I accelerated but the brief burst of speed to get through the snowy patch was insufficient; within seconds the car had stopped moving forward, and the tires were spinning.
Recalling my father’s driving lessons, I let gravity ease the vehicle back down the narrow lane, hoping that if I could get off the snow and make a more determined run, I’d reach the top. Alas, just as I backed off the snowy patch, the rear wheel sank off the lane – I hadn’t started the turn fast enough. I tried pulling forward, but the lane itself wasn’t firm enough to provide the traction, and I quickly discovered that an attempt to do a to-and-fro rocking was only making it worse: two wheels off the lane, and tilted at an uncomfortable angle. (Fortunately, there were no plots on that side of the laneway – because of the softness of the soil.)
Berating myself for getting into such a mess, I hauled out the ubiquitous iPhone, looked up a service station, was given the number of a reputable towing service and called for help. Being a typical human, I downplayed the mess I was in, suggesting that just having someone give me a push would get me out. And so, in the Spring gloaming, I turned off the car, stepped into the soft squelching turf, and trudged out to the front of the cemetery. During that walk a movie of what was going to happen was playing out in my head: an hour or more of waiting in the gathering dark, the arrival of a know-it-all mechanic in the stereotypical mud-splattered rig, and lots of ridicule for driving into a dirt lane in the Spring. I practiced pasting a smile on my face, and prepared to laugh at myself before I was truly ready to. Thankfully, reality is better than the fiction we often script in our heads.
Within ten minutes Walter arrived in a gleaming F150. Business-like, and courteous, he invited me into the truck, and we drove in to survey the situation. He focused on the matter at hand, including not only my need to extricate the van, but also to do so without further tearing up the turf or getting his own vehicle stuck. He quickly realized that we would need the proverbial mud-splattered tow truck; within a very few minutes, he gathered the appropriate gear and I watched a problem-solver at work. He didn’t focus on what got me into the mess – he focused on getting me out. Stopping the truck near the top of the hill, he was able to get a cable to reach to the vehicle, and very soon he winched the vehicle onto the lane. He was courteous to me, and didn’t make jokes at my expense. Walter made my day. I paid the bill with a smile.
If I hadn’t gotten stuck, I would be a few dollars to the better, but I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be reminded that good people are everywhere, and that courteous, professional service can make a huge difference in how we see a situation.
Within an hour of getting myself into the mess, I was back on the road heading home, not feeling too badly about how the day had gone – except when the occasional clod of ice-snow-mud-grass would come flying out of the wheel well…