I pride myself on being a fairly self-sufficient individual. I support myself. I can cook, bake, and decorate a nice home. I’ve made sure to also learn those less feminine skills that gender roles designate are more of a masculine duty, like changing the oil in my car, fixing a flat tire, or jumping the car battery.
I’ve never wanted to be a burden on anyone. And as a single woman, I find it wise and prudent to be able to do most things myself and not need to call for help for every little thing. And if I can’t do it myself (I admit, I have a few limitations) I make sure there is enough money to hire someone who can. I admit it, I hate to ask for help.
But even the best laid plans of a determined, fiercely independent woman sometimes things go awry. And from these SNAFUs we often learn our greatest lessons.
When It All Goes Wrong
So there I was, ready to hit the road with friends for a ski trip. Now, let me explain what this entails for all of you western U.S. types. Ski resorts in this part of the world can often be found in remote locations, and not just twenty minutes up the nearest canyon. In our case, it was a good three hours away, in a far off state park in a different state, and to say it was in “the sticks” wouldn’t be wrong.
We hit the road at six in the morning, most of us operating on less than five hours of sleep. We stopped on our way out of town to pick up one more friend out in the suburbs. We passed by a gas station that always brings up mixed emotions for me. It was the worst day of my life the last time I was at that gas station, and just the sight of it makes me choke up. It was a place where a few years ago I realized my life had officially hit rock bottom. I’ll forgo the details of what rock bottom looks like. But I’ll say this much- rock bottom is an awful and horrible place.
Worst Day Ever
But that gas station was also the place where two important events happened in my life. The first was that I learned how to accept and appreciate the true kindness and charity of strangers who correctly suspected I had hit rock bottom and helped me. The second was I learned how to ask a friend for help, and accept his generous assistance. Allowing my friend to see me in such an awful situation taught me a new level of humility and honesty. But his willingness to help me before even knew what the problem was, taught me what a good man can be. So when my skiing buddies and I passed by that poignant little gas station, my heart filled with gratitude and memories yet again.
Little did I know what the day ahead held for us, or else I would have considered staying behind at that gas station.
We passed the gas station and drove on. It was less than an hour later that I looked in the rear view of the 1997 Suburban I was driving and saw clouds of white steam pouring out the back. I should add here that I normally don’t drive this jalopy. It’s on loan to me while my much younger car gets an expensive transmission and clutch repaired. I’m incredibly grateful for the loaner jalopy, even though the rest of this story may make you wonder why.
Other cars quickly started to flag me down as the small cloud of steam turned into a massive cloud of steam. I exited the highway, with the other car of friends, following right behind. Of course, I managed to pull off on the one exit on that highway that doesn’t have a gas station, let alone any sort of business or dwelling, anywhere in sight.
Admittedly, I had no idea how to handle the situation. Steam pouring from the front and back of the car at the same time was not something I’ve experienced before. I was lost. And I felt horrible because it was obvious I was about to ruin the day for my friends.
Never Trust a Jalopy, Always Trust Men in Carhartts
Our skiing and snowboarding posse included four men and seven women. One guy quickly jumped to it, popped the hood, and took a guess at the problem. Before we even had time to all agree on the culprit, a pick-up truck pulled up beside us.
Out jumped two men in Carhartts. They introduced themselves with two of the thickest Southern hick accents known to mankind. And their names were Otis and Woody. If Saturday Night Live wanted to do a parody of what rednecks look like, Otis and Woody would be their model. Otis showed us his driver’s license so we’d know he was telling us the truth (we hadn’t asked or questioned him). Both men, complete with cigarettes and tobacco chew, stuck their heads in the engine, and diagnosed the problem- blown hose and gasket. “This one right about here don’t look right.”
Faster than I can truly comprehend, Otis and Woody offered to take “one of the boys” with them into town to buy the part. “If the store don’t got it, I got a buddy with one of these up on blocks. We can swing by his place and see if we can get it off his car.”
And before I really had time to protest and say it was my problem and my car, and I should be the one to go, or we could just use my AAA membership and get it towed, one of the guys jumped in the truck with these complete strangers.
I’ll fast forward some of the next part here. I’ll just sum it up like this- a bucket of grease and $11 later, the three men returned with the part. Meanwhile, we dispatched the other car of skiers off to the resort. There was no reason for all of us to have a bad day, especially since they had already purchased their passes. Two of the guys, plus the one with Otis and Woody, insisted on staying with me to make sure all went well.
No, I Don’t Know What a Grease Bucket Is For
To be honest, I could and would have been alright if all of them had left without me. I could have called a tow truck.
There were other [much more expensive] options. I would not have thought one bad thing about my friends had they opted to go on without me. But it meant a lot to me that they chose to stay with me.
As luck (or divine blessings) would have it, Otis and Woody just happened to have the right set of tools in their car to replace the hose and gasket. (And when I say “right set of tools” I mean they didn’t have it at all, but made do using multiple other tools and some good old fashioned grunting.) I’m skipping over a part here where the first trip to the store actually resulted in the wrong sized gasket, and a second trip was taken, again with Otis and Woody.
A blown gasket and hose that easily could have cost me a few hundred dollars and one really bad day, was taken care of in just a few hours, and for $11 and a bucket of grease. (No, I don’t know what a bucket of grease is used for, but Otis and Woody needed it, so I happily paid for it.)
Skipping over more irrelevant parts that were mostly city kids uncomfortable with driving a jimmied jalopy into the woods of West Virginia (sorry West Virginia), we stopped and got a rental car at the last sign of civilization.
Finally, We Get There
Five hours late, we finally got to the ski resort. It wasn’t lost on me that not one person had complained or whined about the loss of our day. Two of the men I had now made horribly late had purchased a ticket in advance, and now were definitely not getting their money’s worth out of it. I apologized multiple times. They each dismissed me and insisted it wasn’t my fault. It sure felt like my fault. I was responsible for driving the jalopy. I hadn’t had it tuned up or checked it out before the trip. But these wonderful men insisted all was well.
A very few hours of snowboarding and skiing later (for them, but not for me- again, a long explanation not relevant here), it was time to turn around and head back home. We met up with our other car of friends who all checked to make sure I was (or rather the car was) okay. They had also been delayed a good hour by my ill-fated jalopy, but not one of them complained or commented on it.
After a delightful, yet exhausted, dinner later, we started the three hour trip back home around eight p.m. We opted to stop and turn the rental car back in and retrieve the jalopy.
As fate would have it, less than twenty minutes after we couldn’t go back for the rental car, the “check engine light” turned on. We pulled off at an exit with a few gas stations to inspect it well after ten p.m. I’ll add, we were not near the original exit we had pulled off at earlier in the day.
The Return of Woody
We pulled into the nearest gas station, where I swear to you, the first person I saw was Woody. What the odds were that we would run into the same guy exactly twelve hours later at a different “middle of nowhere” are beyond me. But sometimes, odds mean nothing, because the Lord has a hand in everything.
We saw him, he saw us. We also saw that he was on a date. Being single adults, we respectfully said hello, and wished him well for the night. I can only hope that he put the $50 we slipped into his cup holder earlier in the day to good use, and showed her a better time than the local 7-11 gas station. But I digress.
There was another hour long delay as we checked out a few more things. To say we were getting slap happy and ridiculously tired would be an understatement. There was also a point where I realized that since I never skied, I had never changed my clothes. I was still in my pajamas.
In all other events and places, I would have wanted to just throw in the towel, sit down, and have a really good cry. To recap, I had ruined my friends’ day, my replacement car was now completely useless to me, and I had spent a lot of money for someone who hadn’t actually skied. Oh and there was something going wrong with my phone and I wasn’t getting any emails or texts in or out, which was causing some extra problems on the side.
Not All Knights in Shining Armor Ride White Stallions or even Wear Shining Armor
But that wasn’t what was happening. I didn’t cry. I didn’t flail in utter frustration with the never-ending series of unfortunate events. Instead, I was surrounded by good friends who never once seemed annoyed or irritated or put out. I was seeing first-hand what a good man really entailed. A good man who helps, fixes, and does so without complaint. A good man who sees the positive in a situation, no matter how dire. One friend said he was glad for the chance to get out of the city and see how the “real world” lives. He could have come back with a truly outrageous tale of a girl who insisted on driving a beat-up old jalopy that inevitably broke down, and then he ended up getting in a truck with two good old boys’ that then took him on a crazy drive through the sticks in search of grease and an excavator, while he missed most of this much-anticipated snowboarding trip. But he didn’t. Instead he said it was a great day, where he learned a lot about good people, and what life is like outside of the big city. Another friend said he was glad they were there so that I didn’t have to endure it all alone. And the other said he actually always secretly likes it when things like this happen just for the adventure of it all.
I could have survived the day alone. I could have survived that ill-fated day so many months ago solo too. But neither would have been pleasant, and both would have cost me a fortune. I’m grateful to know good men.
There is no shame or humiliation in needing help. There is nothing wrong with accepting assistance. There is nothing wrong with being a strong, stubborn, fiercely independent woman, who admits that sometimes she can’t do everything by herself.
(More Than) A Few Good Men
In many times and places, I have been accused of criticizing or putting down men.
Let the record show that I love and appreciate men. I appreciate the good old boys who stop to help strangers without a second thought. I love good Mormon boys who would never consider letting a woman go off in a truck with strangers, nor would they allow her to stay behind to fix the situation alone. (I’m particularly thankful for any sort of man or woman who knows how to fix a blown gasket and doesn’t charge me labor.) I’m grateful for friends who hear you are in trouble and come to help you before they even know what is wrong.
I’d like to say that someday I’ll be the kind of person who doesn’t get into these sorts of jams. (Or at the very least, will drive a more reliable car.) But even the best laid plans of a fiercely independent and strong willed woman can be thwarted by the unseen. And for that reason, among many reasons, I will always be grateful for good men.
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