The Professor and I were heading off into work this morning; deadline, my first lecture of the day, but with the certain calm that is induced by the knowledge that there is half an hour in hand. We were about to take the roundabout leading onto the A90, which is the big, busy road which goes up the East coast, when the P. let in the clutch, moved to first gear, and said, ‘Now we’re really in trouble’. The gearbox was completely dead, and the only thought which commended itself at that moment was, at least this has happened while we are at the head of a queue of traffic getting onto this damned road, and not, for example, during the first change-up when we were on the roundabout itself with 15 container lorries going in either direction. So we both got out, and pushed the car to the side of the road. Almost immediately, while the Professor was still investigating the front end of our stricken vehicle, I heard a voice behind me: a white van of a mechanic-ish tendency had parked on the verge behind us, and a large man with a red face and an even redder boiler suit was asking whether he could do anything to help. Within moments, he was head-down in the innards of the car; there is a sort of nodal junction between the gearbox and whatever sends instructions along when you move the gearstick, and this, apparently, had undone itself, come loose, or broken. I don’t know about these things. My problem, meanwhile, was my lecture; I excused myself, crossed the road (no easy matter) and waited without a great deal of hope at a bus stop on the other side, hoping like hell something would come along in time. What came along, five minutes later, was my ever-loving husband; the aforementioned saint in human form having done something jury-rigged to the gearbox which worked. We got to the University in good style; during the course of the day thte AA did something a bit more permanent; the car is into the garage tomorrow — with a certain ‘this had better be good’ overtone, since the vehicle had allegedly come back from a complete overhaul yesterday. George at the Garage, in whom we have placed considerable trust, has been a little erratic of late and has now, it or so we have told, sublet the business and gone off to take a motorbike round the world, which is the sort of damnfool things people do these days to express themselves. The caretaker management, somewhat chastened, has promised to look into it. But we were really bowled over by the sheer niceness of someone who would stop and try and sort out a total stranger on the verge of a busy roundabout. Let alone succeed in doing so. We have taken the name of the van, and a bottle of whisky will be heading his way.

5 Responses to “Angels”

  1. carol Says:

    Human race- frequently underestimated in my experience.

    Tropical Godfather: what comes around, etc. Have just received unmerited but delerious thanks from a distance learning MA student in Africa. What did the poor guy think I was going to when he asked for an extension on the grounds of onset of debilitating malaria- tell him to take an aspirin and make the deadline? But then, the ‘delerious’ might be literal anyway.

  2. Canadian professor Says:

    I remind CArol of Dame Helen Gard(i)ner response: No autobiography. We used to replace the hapless undergraduate with more dramatic situations.

    And yes, the human race IS underestimated. My car, through my own improvidence, ran out of gas on a main Toronto street. Two Mancunians got it to the side of the road, went off for gas, put in the gas & declined to be paid for it.

    Angels? or Saints? Anthony, as in the story of the Martryologist’s daughter in Rome. if the whisky is returned with a puzzled note, all will be clear.

  3. Andy N Says:

    Few and far between it seems, but it’s good to know there are a few good people left in the world.

  4. Nick Says:

    Say Hurrah for The Northern Professor & for White Van Man. Oddly I was this very afternoon discussing with my friend The Intrepid Mountaineer (who professes some sort of mathematical background) the near-certainty of my car breaking down in the Carlisle one-way system while we were en route to a meeting, the car having been serviced yesterday. Apparently the day-after-overhaul is statistically the most likely time for Massive Spontaneous Existence Failure in any mechanical system (as noted in airline engineering departments, but that’s another story). In this case, any bad carma around Carlisle seems to have been diverted further north. Oops. Sorry . . .

  5. carol Says:

    Newly-enhanced fellow feeling of the sideswiped-by-technical-letdown variety. You have stoically weathered so many direct lightning strikes to your computers, it seems amazing that that I am currently in mourning for my very first home computer loss- it died thoroughly and at great length yesterday, without warning or provocation (or climactic intervention). A ghastly 11 hour death rattle trading as a diagnostic/ fix it programme, which was both unavoidable, unstoppable and, as it turned out, bloody useless in the long run. And at four in the morning, no-one want to hear you scream, ‘well, it never did THAT before’. Other than the day’s work itself, nothing comes to mind that can’t be fixed, faked-up or tracked down on a backup somewhere or other. I think.
    I’ve decided to greet total calamity with mild annoyance, have a siesta then get on with some pen-assisted marking, if I ruddy well feel like it. Tips on appropriate pc-bereavement etiquette gratefully received from the more experienced.

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