Our car got stuck yesterday. Peter had taken a trip to the library to pick up a book I had placed on reserve, and all was well until he arrived home and tried to turn the car into our garage… and got stuck in the deep snow and only partially-melted ruts of ice worn in by all the other vehicles traveling through the back alleyway.
He struggled on his own for around 45 minutes before coming into the house and asking me to give him a hand. I stopped my work, bundled up, and headed out back to see what I could do… which was, really, not much of anything. I took my turn being in the driver’s seat while Peter pushed, and then pushing while Peter navigated. We both tried shoveling some of the ice and snow out from under the car, lodging boards under the tires to give them something solid to grip, and going first forward and then in reverse.
Irritated – and only half jokingly – I wedged my shovel into a snowbank and said something to the effect of, “THAT’S IT. The car will just have to stay here until Spring.” Obviously that wasn’t a viable option, though… so we kept working at it, trying all the same things over and over again, the only result being that we found ourselves sinking deeper into the hole our tires were spinning in the ice and slush.
I’m not sure how long we spent frustrating and wearing ourselves out with our fruitless efforts before a passing stranger down at the end of the alley saw us struggling, stopped to check if we were stuck, then came over to help us. I hopped back into the driver’s seat and put the car in reverse while the two of them pushed – but only for a second, as the stranger immediately saw that that wasn’t going to work, and motioned to Peter to indicate that they should lift and push. Sure enough, within moments of applying this strategy the car was out of the rut. I handed the wheel over to Peter and watched as the stranger directed him into the garage, the car lurching and fishtailing all the way, threatening to at any moment slam into the sides of the garage opening but, miraculously, arriving back in its spot in one piece, mirrors and doors intact and unharmed.
I thanked the stranger profusely (if with some embarrassment) and trudged back to the garage… and by the time Peter had got out of the car and came over to thank him, the silent stranger had completely vanished.
And he truly was SILENT with a capital S! Peter and I had both talked throughout the whole exercise, but I don’t believe the stranger said a single word from the moment he first saw us until the time he disappeared back down the alley. For all I know, he didn’t even speak English, or, for that matter, couldn’t talk at all! Everything had been accomplished – and very successfully, I might add – via motions and body language and an unspoken, shared understanding of the perils of a Canadian winter.
So what’s the takeaway in all this? I’m pretty sure that if you asked Peter, he’d say that it was for me to have picked up my own library book before this last snowfall so that we could have avoided the whole mess in the first place! For me, though, I was struck by just how quickly a frustrating situation resolved itself when we stopped doing the same things we’d already tried a million times before – pushing – and took a new approach pointed out by the stranger – lifting AND pushing.
Instead of spinning our wheels, we got out of our rut.
I will have to remember this next time… not just when the car gets stuck in the snow, but when I am stuck trying to resolve some problem or issue and finding that doing the same old things over and over again just isn’t working.
So thank you, Silent Stranger… not only for helping us in our immediate moment of physical need, but for unintentionally teaching me a bigger life lesson: When you’re struggling, think beyond your boundaries and consider a new approach. You might just stop spinning your wheels and get out of your rut!
Have you had any winter misadventures?
What did you learn from them?