I started this blog to keep my church, friends and family updated on my year volunteering in Katrina recovery with the Presbyterian Church (USA). I've now signed on for a second year working in disaster recovery and another year living in Mississippi. It's getting good....

Friday, March 23, 2007

Not just a flat tire.

I'm driving to a home visit in Pass Christian when all the sudden my car shudders, I hear a pop and the green machine begins to veer off the road. I end up half-way in the ditch with my right front tire blown. Urg. Physically I'm fine (Mom, really, I'm fine). After I utter a few choice swear words, I throw on my hazards and jump out to inspect the damage. The mangled rubber from the tire is so meshed in the swampy mud that I can't really tell how bad this bad situation really is from this angle. Now, the feminist in me wants to say that I didn't panic, I rolled up my sleeves and handled the situation. And that's almost how it happened. I called a housemate, a co-worker and even my dad, and they were all totally unable to help me. So I decided that I had to fix this. I needed to fix something today. Something! So, I read my owner's manual (who's the smarty who thought to give those away with the cars?) and learned that I really shouldn't attempt to change the tire while my car tilts precariously into the swampy ditch. So, even though somewhere in my memory I thought I recalled my dad saying that I should NEVER drive on a flat, I risked my life, and my wheel, and backed myself out of the ditch and on to level, dry land. I pulled out the spare and began working on those lug nuts. A sweet old man pulled up and offered to show me his trick for how to loosen the lug nuts and talked me through most of the process. As we talked about cycling, kyaking, dogs, trees, and all things Pass Christian, this man restored my hope in this community. He was sweet and patient. He was helpful but didn't try to save me. He and his dog wanted to make sure that I was doing the work, and that I knew what I was doing, so that I'd know how to do it all next time if I ended up alone again. It was sunny and lovely and really, not too bad of an experience. Until Mr. Mississippi Mud drove up. This guy, in his big red truck, wanted to force his way on the entire situation. I know he meant well and that he wanted to help me. But he was what a yankee like me would categorize as a classic southern man- pushing his way where it wasn't needed. While these two men duked it out over how much pressure I should have in the doughnut tire and which directions I should follow to get to the scrapyard to look for a new wheel, I was changing the freaking tire. After a quick trip to Mr. Sweet's house to put more air in the doughnut (both men agreed that it wasn't safe for me to drive home on only 15 whatevers of pressure when the tire says it needs 60 whatevers) via his air compressor--- side note: why does every man in Mississippi own an air compressor?---I drove back to the church safely on my little doughnut.

So here's the thing. I think that when I work down here I'm often more like Mississippi Mud and I'd rather be more like Mr. Sweet. That's the thing with all this disaster recovery stuff. Folks from all over come down here and want to help. But then we want to push our way on this place, without asking how they'd have us help. We blow in to town and want to fix, fix, fix. We mean well. We just want to help. But it is cold. And arrogant. And rough.

Tomorrow I've got to work on finding a new wheel (tire's fine, but the wheel is toast), bake some cookies (for Mr. Sweet) and check my attitude. Thank goodness the sun will be out again!

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