Monday, March 05, 2007

Paying It Forward

It's really winter here--we've had an entire season's worth of snow over the last week. Even after settling and compacting, we've got at least 8 inches of snow on the ground. This is a significant amount of snow at our house, because the dog's legs are significantly shorter than 8 inches, which makes life difficult and cold for him.

On Friday night, in the middle of the second series of big snow, I took the Pony over to Minneapolis for a sleep-over. I dropped her off, and started home. The house is on a large hill, and the only access is from the back alley. I had a couple choices of route--I could attempt to back up a fairly steep hill into the opposite driveway, and come out the way I came in. I could back up a slightly less steep hill, and then pull forward through the alley. Or I could just go forward down a second alleyway that lay just below the first one.

I knew there was ice under the snow whichever way I went, and there were some seriously solid concrete walls I would need to avoid while backing up. Meanwhile, the lower alley was downhill, required no clever backing up skills, and no risk of fishtailing. There was a long clear track where someone had driven down the alley before me--clear wheel tracks, and a straight shot to the next street. I picked the lower alley.

I picked badly.

I had gotten two buildings down the way when I got stuck. There was no going forward, so I tried to back up. Nope. Wasn't going to happen. I was good and stuck, and the alleyway was so narrow that I couldn't actually get out of my side of the car. Perhaps it was just that my Japanese vehicle wanted to stop right behind the Zen Center for some meditation, but we weren't going anywhere.

I ended up calling the parents hosting the sleepover, and they tried to get me out. It was soon apparent it was going to take a tow truck, which we called, and I waited inside the house, feeling very very embarassed to be such an idiot and to be imposing on their plans. This is very typically Minnesotan, as we don't like to be a bother.

Fortunately, these were also long time Minnesotans, and Mr. Host assured me that he had gotten stuck himself only the day before, and it had taken six guys to push him out, so he saw this as an opportunity to pay the favor forward.

The two truck showed up after half an hour, and it turned out to be my lucky day. Luck, like many things, being relative. Had my car made it an extra 12 inches further down the alley, the tow truck could not have gotten me out--I was at the extreme end of the reach of the winch cable. Incidentally, I was also "bottomed out," meaning that the snow was so deep that the bottom of my car was resting on the snow and thus my tires were not even touching solid ground. Plus the tire track that I had been following was wider than my car--apparently rather than being the sign of a drivable route, it had been the signs of an urban commando driving a Jeep.

Even with the tow truck, it took a good half an hour to extricate my car, and even out of the deep snow, I still was stuck in the driveways. The tow truck driver thought he could drive me out of the shovelled part of the alley, but I still ended up pushing my own car out onto the street.

The very next day--daylight, bright sunshine, our next door neighbors got their car stuck on the piles of snow left at the base of their driveway by the snowplows. Like me the night before, the car had bottomed out, and their efforts with an ergonomic shovel, kitty litter, and cardboard had not worked. Mr. Sweetie offered his help, and I came along. I'm not such a great shoveller--which had to happen--but I'm not a bad pusher. It took 15 minutes, but we got them out, and they were so grateful! Mr. Sweetie, bless his heart, even brought the new snowblower around and cleared their driveway too.

So, I think I may have paid my debt forward, because that's what we do here in the North. Give someone a push, or a jump to start a dead battery, because next time it may be you. However, our nice neighbors brought around a plate of home made brownies to thank us--on a very nice plate too. And you know you can't return a plate empty, right?

This may be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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