When I got my first car in high school, (and by “got” I mean, I got my dad’s used, 1988 white Volvo station wagon) I also got a tire gauge. It’s like the two went hand-in-hand; some rite of passage for an over-excited new driver. You get your license. Get a car. Oh, and then get a tire gauge? go figure. But I assume my dad wanted me to be a prepared and competent driver, so like a dutiful daughter I have kept that little tire gauge in my glove department ever since.
Last night, trying to be the responsible car owner that my dad taught me to be, I noticed one of my tires looked a little low. I pulled into the gas station on the corner of San Andres and Carrillo and pulled out my nifty tire gauge. And I must admit that I felt quite proud of myself and as I unscrewed each of the valves and checked the pressure for each tire. Sure enough, my front tire was low. It read 20 psi and it was supposed to be at 30 psi.
I looked at the air pump standing before me and thought, well, this shouldn’t be that hard, right?
Little did I know.
I spent the next 20 minutes feeding quarters to the machine, screwing the pump onto my car, attempting to fill the tire with air, only to check the psi and notice it was going to down! My now not so nifty tire gauge read 15 psi. What the heck? How is my tire pressure going down? I paced back and forth. I must be doing something wrong.
At this point I was frustrated. This was supposed to be easy. I mean in all seriousness, I wasn’t changing a flat tire or anything; no, I was just filling up my tires with air! I stood there turning over every possible solution of what I was doing incorrect, but I couldn’t figure it out. My tire was now flatter than when I started and I now I couldn’t drive home on it. I conceded to the fact that I needed someones help. I needed someone to just tell me what I was doing wrong or better yet, show me how to fix it.
So, who do I call when I have a car/life/home/problem-to-be-fixed question? My dad.
He didn’t answer.
Second best is my brother, but he didn’t answer.
I called one of my friend’s husbands who lives down the street, but he didn’t answer.
I even called one of my former students who is a mechanic, but he didn’t answer!
What is it with men not answering their cell phones on a Monday night? All I needed was someone, anyone, to help me fill up my tires. I know it sounds pathetic and albeit, I am slightly embarrassed, but I really just wanted a guy to come fix it. sorry, ladies, no offense to those who are much more car competent than I.
I was now annoyed as I frantically started scrolling through my contacts. Who else can I call?
Just then two latino men climbed out of their white pick-up truck, probably ending a tiresome day of gardening and tending to people’s yards- (mind you, yards that may have been three times bigger than their own small apartment.)
In a thick Spanish accent the older man looked at my car and asked, “Que paso?”
With an empathetic head nod, I tried to explain in Spanish that the air pump wasn’t working and instead of gaining air, my tires were loosing air. I don’t even know what exactly I communicated, considering I didn’t know the words for tire, pressure or pump in Spanish.
But before I could explain myself any further, Julio, and his son Eduardo bent down picked up the pump and started mumbling in a quick, spit-fire Spanish that left me standing there not understanding a thing. They some how figured out that there was a leak or hole in the air pump and so obviously air was not being pumped into the tire.
They wiped their already stained hands on their jeans and stood up smiling. I’d like to think they were thinking, “Man, it feels good to help someone” but they were probably thinking something more along the lines of, “Aww, stupid gringa, she didn’t even check to see if air was coming out of the pump.”
Regardless of what they were thinking, I was so thankful. These men stopped, helped and it meant the world to me. Some part of me felt like this is what neighbors are supposed to do. Neighbors are supposed to graciously give and share just because we’re neighbors, and we live in the same community, share the same streets and city. I am always challenged by the simplicity of Jesus words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” His command is not to like all of your neighbors or even to know all of your neighbors, but simply to love them. It made me want to be better neighbor.