Okay, it didn’t quite look like this, but it definitely felt that way.
Stuckness seems to be a theme right now. My last post was about feeling enmeshed in the sticky middle of my new play, to the point of fearing that I’d be risking arrest by the playwright police (if not the actual police) if I showed it to anyone else. Then yesterday, I got stuck. Really, truly, utterly and completely stuck, to the point where there’s no limit to the number of words I could put in front of stuck to feasibly demonstrate just how stuck I was. And just to make it worse the stuckness was not even a metaphor this time.
Picture the scene. You’re going to have to use your imagination – I tried to take an action photo, but my phone’s memory was full. Feeling a little stressed and wanting to enjoy the sunshine, I took the kids up to Winstone’s Ice Cream Factory, a local landmark. It’s a popular place, especially on a sunny afternoon, the narrow lane quickly filling with cars, leading to lots of drivers having to reverse and squeeze to one side in order to negotiate the traffic. We parked up, enjoyed our ice creams (chocolate, toffee fudge and a blue one that I have no idea about, in case you’re trying hard to visualize it all) and then went to leave. Leaving should have been a fairly simple manouevre, a case of pulling out, driving forward about ten yards and then reversing around a corner onto a dirt track in order to turn around and drive out. Admittedly the corner was at a tricky angle, and there wasn’t much space with a line of parked cars opposite it, but it shouldn’t have been difficult. I slowly reversed around, until – CRUNCH.
People turned to look at the noise. I had no idea what had just happened. I’m still not entirely sure. Let’s just say that the turning circle on my new car is nowhere near as tight as on my faithful old Micra, and the angle of the lane meant that I’d gone wider than I’d thought – and now I was wedged in. There was a significant dip down from the lane onto the dirt track – the front of my car was grounded on the lane while the back was wedged into the grassy bank behind me. Stuck. And with absolutely no idea what to do about it. People stared. Some came over for a better look. A young man, Joe, appraised the situation.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. Well, actually he said I’ve never seen anything like it Madam, but I’m not repeating the Madam aspect of our conversation. He said Madam quite a lot and it made me feel old. To continue, Madamless; “I don’t know how you’re going to get out – you’ll either have to rip off the front bumper, or wreck the back bumper, your choice.”
I’ve only had the car since February. I didn’t particularly want to rip either of the bumpers off. I didn’t want to wreck my car, have to pay to fix it or bugger up my No Claims Discount. Also, I needed the car in order to drive us all off for a weekend away, so wrecking it wasn’t high on my To Do list. I did need to get it out though.
I called the AA. It wasn’t exactly a straightforward call, given that the woman on the other end was based in Birmingham and wasn’t entirely familiar with the precise whereabouts of Winstone’s Ice Cream Factory. When you’re on a dirt track, surrounded by nameless lanes, it’s not particularly easy to give directions other than The Ice Cream Factory! I’m right outside the Ice Cream Factory! Tell the guy to ask where the Ice Cream Factory is, everyone knows it. However, we eventually tracked the route from the nearest pub – The Old Bear in Rodborough, and she promised that a patrol van would be with me within the half hour. She also warned me that if specialist lifting equipment was required, it would be at my own expense.
Right. Because if I wasn’t sure about paying out for a new bumper or wrecking my NCD, I was well up for hiring specialist lifting equipment. I’ve had better days, to be honest.
Meanwhile, Joe had been joined by Terry and both of them were peering at my stuck wheels and wedged-in bumper.
“I reckon if we get it jacked up on either side and get some wood in under the wheels, you can drive straight out,” Joe said. Yeah, you guessed it, there were a few Madams in there as well. I wasn’t sure about the jacking-it-up plan, but then I wasn’t sure about hiring specialist lifting equipment either, so I was willing to see where it went. Between them, Joe and Terry got both sides of the car jacked up, the rear wheels lifting precariously up off the ground in a way that wasn’t entirely reassuring. A raiding party headed off to the Ice Cream Factory in search of wood, led by my kids, and returned jubilant with two planks, a large pallet and a guy in a white coat. The guy in the white coat appraised the situation and headed back towards the relative safety of the ice cream. To be honest, I wished I could join him. The wood was wedged in under my tyres and the car pronounced ready to drive, when the AA van turned up.
“Looks like you’ve got it all sorted,” the AA man announced, before taking out a bigger jack and pumping the car up higher again. He added in more wood, changing the angle of the planks, while Terry swung my number plate up out of the way, using its one remaining screw as a pivot. The AA man was now clearly in charge, ousting Joe’s leadership.
“Well, he’s got a much bigger jack,” I shrugged, hoping that Joe wouldn’t feel too badly about it.
“It’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that matters,” Joe muttered. “Madam.”
It was now time for me to get in and drive. I was just a teensy bit TOTALLY FUCKING TERRIFIED at the prospect, with wood wedged in at strange angles beneath my tyres and the very definite possibility of completely wrecking large chunks of my car. The even more likely possibility of proving my complete and utter muppetry to everyone present. I felt sick. However, guided on by Terry at the front, and Joe and the AA man at either side, I slowly edged forward.
Success! The car rolled forwards and free. I was so busy whooping with joy that I didn’t hear the AA man yelling at me to Woah! Woah! WOAH! He then informed me that I had to reverse again, in order to make the turn. Uh-oh.
“I don’t want to get stuck again,” I said.
“You won’t get stuck IF YOU LISTEN TO WHAT I’M SAYING,” the AA man told me. Right. Lesson learned. I backed up by the tiniest amount (WOAH!) then turned hard left and forward to freedom. From there it was an easy matter of parking up so I could thank everyone profusely (“No trouble, Madam, have a good evening.”) then everyone went on their ways and it was time to go home for dinner, my car miraculously undamaged by the whole adventure.
The whole thing was a disaster. A stressful, public disaster. Or at least it should have been. I was worried that Joe and Terry had got it wrong, that I’d end up in an even worse mess. I couldn’t see a way out of the mess I was in, never mind making it worse. Stuck? Hell yeah. And yet – things had to work out. They had to. Wrecking my car wasn’t an option. But then… I was helped. Two complete strangers went out of their way to help me out, and solved a dilemma I had no idea how to fix. The kindness of strangers still exists, despite austerity and terrorism and impending environmental doom. A couple of days ago, a Bible verse came to mind for some reason, the one about the sparrow;
What is the price of two sparrows–one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. (Matthew 10:29)
I’m not sure what I was thinking about at the time – trust, perhaps. Trust that if I fall, I will be caught. In recent months it has felt as if there is no safety net, no one to catch me. Today I learned that there is. There was perhaps a certain belligerency in my unwillingness to accept the reality of the situation (that my car was fucked) and blind faith that somehow a way would be found. Call it belligerency, or call it positive outlook – whatever – it felt as if I was just going to trust that things would be okay, because the alternative wasn’t an attractive proposition. It seems to have worked. It doesn’t really surprise me – I’ve long since suspected that we generally get what we expect. If we think that the world is a dangerous, difficult place, then that’s exactly what our world will be. It might however be worth experimenting with a more positive attitude and seeing where it gets you. Maybe I just got lucky, but I’ll take it.
What does any of this have to do with writing? Not much, other than that life is not merely about writing, writers have lives to lead too. And also this – what is it that you’re dreaming of? What is it that you want to do? And what are you telling yourself about whether or not it’s actually possible? It looked like it was impossible to get my car out. Bring on a couple of strangers, a few bits of wood and a jack I didn’t know I had hidden in my boot – job done. Are you willing to believe that there is help out there, whatever it is you’re trying to do?
You think you’re stuck? Think you can’t do it? Picture me at my most muppetty in my wedged-in car. Picture Joe and Terry, a few bits of wood, an AA van zooming in at the nick of time. Let yourself believe that they’ll be there for you as well – at least, your versions of Joe and Terry will be, because there’s only so much that two men can do on their own, and there’s a bit of a geographical limitation to the area that can reasonably be expected to cover, rescue-wise. No matter; you’ve got tools at your disposal that you didn’t know you had, and the rest you can cobble together with a bit of ingenuity and imagination. Throw that together with the fact that most people are essentially good and want to help and suddenly you’re unstoppable.
Go get ‘em tiger.
photo credit: Burnt out car via photopin (license)