My family recently moved to Tawas from Atlanta, Georgia. My wife is originally from Michigan. I have been here many times over the past 20 or so years but I have never “lived” here. I have never lived in the North. I have never known seasons. We had hot and not as hot. We had deer but I did not know the deer population could rival the human population. I saw a wild turkey once as a kid and now I am staring at 30 of them.
To say that it has been an adjustment would be an understatement. I grew up in a small town about the size of Tawas but the minute I graduated high school I left for the big city. After living for decades in total anonymity, one starts to forget what it is like to have actual neighbors or a community. Sure, you see the same person at the checkout at the grocery store but as soon as you take it to the conversational level they are gone, never to be seen again.
Since I do not know about Northern things I never considered how absurd it would be to tool around in a golf cart in 8” of snow. It was one of those rare, sunny, blue-sky days. Maybe 40 degrees. In my previous life that would be freezing, but now it felt like a spring afternoon. My wife was out of town for a few hours. I was free to do all the dumb stuff I wanted, free of unsolicited guidance.
With the sun shining on my back, I pulled out of the garage. Nothing could go wrong. One minute later...stuck. Wheels were spinning. Grass was flying out from under the snow. Then dirt was splattering as I turned my yard into a frozen demolition derby arena. I tried to get out and push but in the slush, the machine wouldn’t budge. I tried putting doormats underneath the tires. Nothing. I had spun so much that the seal broke on one of the tires.
I should probably preface all this with the fact that this golf cart was originally owned by my in-laws that live in the area. Unlike me, my wife and my in-laws are particularly sensitive about their objects and the care they receive. I have a knack for breaking things. I learned at a young age to not become attached. There is no world in which I would remain living if this golf cart was made to sit in the mud and snow for an indeterminate amount of time, or if there was I wouldn’t want to be a part of it because I’d hear about it. Every. Single. Day. My wife would be home soon. My in-laws could show up at any time. The clock was ticking.
I needed to get that tire fixed. To make matters worse I had no tools and I had to pick up my son from school. I made a plan to pick him up and then drop by the hardware store and rush home. As I stood outside with a group of parents, tapping my foot and waiting for dismissal I felt a strong urge to confess my sins to a neutral party. I told a man about my situation. He laughed and agreed that I was certainly in a pickle.
When I got back home with the tools I went to get the jack out of my car. There was no jack. There wasn’t even a tire. Apparently, I purchased a car that comes with neither. That is a thing now, I guess. I went inside. Defeated. I prepared for my punishments. Then I look up and a pickup truck is pulling into my driveway. It was the man from the school pickup.
In the back of his truck, he had loaded up all of his tools. Wrenches. Jacks. An air compressor. Practically whatever you’d need to fix anything from a golf cart to a battleship. He goes over to the cart, in the snow and mud, on his hands and knees, and gets the tire off. Then he proceeds to turn on his compressor and fix the tire. Within five minutes the cart was back in the garage. All was right in the world again. I covered the scars of the mishap with snow.
I don’t know a lot about the North. I don’t know much about community. I lived 10 feet away from people for a decade and never spoke to them once. Not because I didn’t want to, it’s just how it is. This man who doesn’t know me from Adam, saved my life. It was never an option for him to not help me. Watching him change that tire in the freezing cold I felt a warmth like I never felt before. I just hope that when the snow melts and the damage is revealed, he’s willing to let me crash on his couch.