Saturday morning Husband and I divided and conquered the children’s activities: he went to the monthly Home Depot Children’s Workshop with BB to build a boat, and I took BG to sailing class. I was watching BG clearly enjoying herself, hiking out at the tiller and not minding at all the mini-squall soaking all the kids, when my phone rang.
“I’ve locked us out of my car. Can you come get BB? And bring a wire hanger?” I told him he would have to wait until class was over, which was soon. Next call, 10 minutes later: “Are you coming yet? We’re in the parking lot and BB is hungry and thirsty and hot.” Good Lord.
“So go back into Home Depot, buy snacks and a drink by the checkout, and while you’re at it, look for hangers or wire of some nature.” As far as I was concerned, if you are going to be ‘stranded’ somewhere, outside a massive hardware store was pretty much the most convenient place ever. When class finished, BG and I hightailed it home to discover, alas, à la Joan Crawford, no wires hangers. Then on to the Home Depot parking lot where BB was happily stuffing his face with Doritos (because I’m sure that was the healthiest thing they had), while Husband was trying to jam a floppy wire from a huge spool (no hangers) into the doorframe of his beloved battered old ‘island-car’ (euphemism for a lemon that never would pass inspection on the mainland); vehicle-thrifty Cubans would push Husband’s car into the Bay of Pigs.
Next marital request: a quick dash to Kmart to buy wire hangers while he stayed to fiddle with the car. The big Kmart on a busy Saturday morning is not exactly where you want to be with 3 and 5 year olds, especially if you are not planning to buy them anything. My intimate knowledge of this Kmart allowed me to navigate us around the problem areas (toys, the Halloween sale, candy) to the hanger aisle. Evidently Mommie Dearest got to Kmart too – no wire hangers. We had a near miss with the clearance toy section on the way to Automotive (thought they might sell those things you jimmy doors open with, then realized they would probably sell too well), but a stray Crayola display hijacked us with gigantic coloring books of Hot Wheels and Arial. Finally we managed to escape Kmart with only a new vacuum, a heat shield for my car dashboard, and two coloring books – clearly a record of some sort. I called Husband immediately afterward while eyeing the Advance Auto Parts store across the parking lot.
“Do you want me to call a car place to come help you? Or I could swing by Lennerd’s and see if they can send someone…or there’s that Auto store…’ (Please God, say no to another store)… Husband sighed. He usually likes to fix things himself, but he was out of his league with this one. “Ok, whatever you think.” I decided to drive over to Lennerd’s, a little automotive garage where we occasionally get our cars fixed. I hadn’t realized it was now just past noon (closing-time), and Lennerd’s was shuttered up tightly. There are some rather less salubrious areas near Kmart that I’ve been warned about, and Lennerd’s seems to be on the edge; so yes, I did hesitate for a second when I noticed a little further down the road, a small group of men gathered around a tow truck and another car that made Husband’s look new. But hey, a tow truck’s a tow truck. I drove over, left the children in the car with the parking brake pulled and in a raucous game of ‘slide the veggie snacks through the pool noodle’ (honestly, whatever keeps them happy), and approached the group with a hearty “Good Afternoon!” I got the same response back and launched in.
“My husband has locked himself out of his car at Home Depot, and I can’t find a wire hanger anywhere, and I thought maybe you could help, or know who to call…” The oldest guy who seemed to belong to the tow truck said he was in the middle of something (gesturing to the car), but maybe afterwards? I asked how long it might take then repeated my lame comment about not being able to find a hanger.
“You want me to get you a hanger?” The tow truck guy looked confused. No, I explained, just that we couldn’t figure out any other way to get it open. He asked what kind of car it was (luckily it is a extremely popular model on St. Thomas), then there was some discussion amongst the men that I couldn’t follow in rapid West Indian patois about tools, and finally he turned to me and said, “You’re trustworthy, right?” I said of course, and he reached into his truck and pulled out something that looked like a long metal rod, thick as a pencil and bent in random places, and what I later found out is called a pry-bar. He showed me how to use the pry-bar on the car they were about to lift, and said if we managed to get it open before he got there, to wait for him in the parking lot and he’d get his tools back from us there. And that was it. He asked for no phone number, nothing written, nada – it was just pure and utter trust and a massive favor for a random stranger. As I started to walk away with his tools, the tow truck lifted the dilapidated car and all the wheels fell off.
Back in the Home Depot parking lot, I showed off my bounty and ingenuity, and demonstrated how to pry open the door. Neither of us was quite sure how exactly to use the metal rod, but Husband went for it, and apparently the thing is bent perfectly to pull up a door lock. It took all of 15 seconds. As Husband gave me a peck on the lips in thanks, we hear yelled across the parking lot, “Heeeey! Do I get a kiss too?!?” Our knight in the tow truck pulled right up to us, laughed and got out to get his tools and shake hands with me. He and Husband did the whole West Indian 10-step handshake/fist bump/bro hug with the back slap routine (and no, they’ve never met before). Husband gave him a 20 as thanks, and off went the man in the CGC Quick Repair tow truck. Sometimes I shake my head and say, “Only here” and don’t mean it nicely. This was one of the other times. I couldn’t stop smiling all day.