On our road, there are two and a half miles between the hard road where my cousin’s farm is and the river ford. There are a handful of residents on the first half mile of the road. Once you get past that, heading out toward the river ford, you’ve only got scattered hunting cabins other than two houses plus ours. There is a woman who lives in one of these houses. I’ve had several interactions with her in the past year. The first interaction involved her car being broken down when she picked up her kids from the bus. I was on my way out to look at our then-under-construction house and I took her and her children home in my car. My second interaction with her, months later, was when I was passing her on the road. I happened to have my window down and she rolled her window down and told me that I drive too fast on this road and she didn’t like it. I thanked her for letting me know and went on. Now whenever I drive past her, I make sure my window is rolled up.
FYI, this is the woman who drives 5 mph who stopped in the road and picked up the turtle. Yeah, I didn’t like it that that incident made me like her a little bit. She still drives too slow. When I say 5 mph, I’m not exaggerating. Sometimes it’s 3. And I hardly think driving 15 mph on this road is acting like I’m on the Autobahn, so yeah, it annoyed me that she gave me a hard time that one day. I think she’s rude and bossy. (There is no posted speed limit on this road, though I’ve been told it’s commonly considered 25 mph on rock-based roads in this area. I don’t know for sure. It’d be difficult to go any faster than that without careening over a cliff, so I suppose no sign is posted because the rough, winding road forms it own limits.) It’s simply not necessary to creep along this road, though, which is what she does. Two and a half miles is a long way at creeping speed. There are various points along the road where I could go around her if she stopped or even pulled over just a little, but she never does that. She forces me to creep along behind her. For two and a half miles.
If I have to pass her on the road coming from the other direction, it’s always me who has to move, not her, even if it’s harder for me. One time I came across her and she stopped her car in the middle of the road. I waited for her to move over at least a little to help me pass her. She didn’t move. Eventually, she got out of her car, marched up to my car window, told me I had 4WD and she didn’t so she wasn’t going to move over and I’d better just figure out how to get around her. I asked her if she could move over just a little since there was a CLIFF there and she was in the MIDDLE of the road. She could move over a little to help, 4WD or not. Nope, not budging. I get a sense of resentment from her. I’m an outlander, “that writer” who built that house on the hill and pretends to be a farmer. I’m a blight upon the community and she’s letting me know, in her way, that I’m not welcome. And then there’s the fact that I came with all those teenagers. She doesn’t like them, either. She came stomping up to my house one day to complain about the way 17 drives. She thinks he drives too fast and she doesn’t like it. (Are we sensing a pattern here?) I thanked her for letting me know. Then she complained about him at the sheriff’s office, too.
In the house where this woman lives with her little children, they do have electricity, but little else. They have no phone service and no TV. Their house is actually two old single-wide trailers put together, and there is mildew almost completely covering the outside of the trailers. I don’t think they have any electric heat because in the winter they are always burning wood and I always think they are going to burn their trailer(s) down. Sometimes I complain that I need money, but all I have to do is look at their home when I drive out the road to know that I am blessed. Their living situation is the classic image of stark Appalachian poverty. I do think this woman is good-hearted–she stopped and got that turtle out of the road–and she is country-wise–she is one of the neighbors I watch to see if they will drive to the river ford or not. But I would never tell her that because I don’t like her. Well, maybe the truth is that I like her, but I don’t like that I like her because along with good-hearted and country-wise, she is so abrasive. Mostly, I just try to avoid her. Which isn’t hard since I have 40 acres to seclude myself. But whenever I drive out the road….. There she is, somehow, always, when I am on the road.
Then the other day I came across her on the road, stopped. She’s strange, so I just went past her then I thought, hunh, maybe I should check, so I stopped the car and told Princess to get out and run back there and find out if she was just stopped for no reason (or, heck, actually moving and I can’t tell because she drives so slow the human eye cannot detect the motion) or broken down. Princess ran back down the road then ran back. The woman’s car was broken down.
Remember that the first time I ever interacted with this woman, I gave her a ride because her car was broken down and all she’s ever done since then is give me a hard time. With great reluctance, I got out of the car and walked back to hers and said, “You want a ride back to your house until you can get some help?” (Cuz, like, if she’s got car trouble, I can’t do anything about that, but I can give her a ride home. And on that stretch of the road, far past the handful of houses at the head of the road and with the river ford closed to traffic from the other direction right now, she’s not likely to get help from anyone else.) I could look her in the eye and see that I was the last person in the known universe from whom she wanted to accept help. But she took it. And I took her home. We drove a mile down the road (at 15 mph, about which she made nary a complaint) and chit-chatted awkwardly about the big storm and I was so relieved when we got to her house and I could let her out.
Our phone was out that day (in the aftermath of the storm), and I told her, “I hope your phone is working so you can call someone because our phone is out.” She said, “We don’t have a phone.” And I felt really bad because I knew that (her little kids had told that to Princess one day on the bus) but I had temporarily forgotten because, well, everyone has a phone. or so you think, and it’s such a basic that it slipped my mind that she didn’t have one. But she said she would use her other car to go get someone to help her with her broken-down car.
And, rid of her at last, I drove away and felt good about helping her in spite of the fact that I didn’t want to help her. I felt good about it, well, honestly, partly because she didn’t want me to help her. I think it annoyed her that I helped her. (Revenge!) And I know that someday I might need help and she is one of the few people who live out here and now she has to help me whether she wants to or not because I have helped her twice. (Self-serving!)
What a crappy person I am! Then I couldn’t even feel good about helping her.
I told this whole story to 52 and he said, “Your trouble is that you are supposed to help her because she needs help and you should expect to gain nothing in return, neither revenge nor some reward in the future.”
He’s such a Yoda. I don’t know how he’s gotten through life without being smacked around more.
I figure this woman will be broken down in the road ten more times and each time I will be tested to see what my motivation is for picking her up, and when I finally pick her up with no motivation other than seeking the goodness of mankind, her country-wise, good-hearted, and abrasive self will evaporate as if she never existed because she was only put here on Earth as a mere figment, an ornery angel, to turn me into a better person.
Which, apparently, I am light years away from becoming as I imagine her entire existence revolving around the improvement of my character.