John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 01.09.06
Fool's Hollow, Quebec


The kindness of strangers

TOMIFOBIA, QC | Yes, I know, we live in hectic times here on the mean streets of the early twenty-first century. Really, who has the time and extra energy to be…nice.

Well, I recently met a handful of strangers who went out of their way to try and help when I carelessly got into a bit of a pickle.

I wasn't looking for help and I didn't ask for help but they all offered to help as soon as they saw what I had gotten myself into.

It started because of the raccoons…

I was halfway home from a trip to the grocery store on the US border, about seven miles from our Hovel out here in Fool's Hollow, Quebec.

As I drove past the Little Church of the Sorrowful Countenance in the village of Tomifobia, I saw - out of the corner of my eye - a cluster of furry shapes in an empty window socket in the church steeple.

Whoa, I said to my Inner Photographer, those were raccoons. I turned the car around and slowly made my way back to the dilapidated church.

Sure enough, way up in the decaying steeple, there were three fluffy raccoons basking in the weak winter sunlight.

I stopped my car, and slowly opened the door. My plan was to get my trusty Fuji digital camera off the back seat and record the moment.

The coons weren't buying it. They eyed me for several seconds, then ambled back into the darkness of the steeple. One did come back and peer around the corner of the window frame for brief look. But then it was gone.

I waited for a few minutes, then decided this portrait session would have to wait for another day.

I backed the car down the road a few feet and turned into a driveway. At the same time I kept glancing up at the steeple, hoping the coons would reappear.

Big mistake numero uno.

I started to drive out of the driveway. At the same time I peered up at the racoonless steeple.

Big mistake number two.

The car slid into a snowbank within four inches of the top of the culvert. The top of the culvert was four feet from the bottom of the roadside drainage ditch.

The right front wheel just spun in the snow when I gently tried to back up. I was good and stuck.

As I stood cellphoneless on the road, meditating on my stupidity, a young woman stopped and asked if she could help. She tried driving, I and my seventy year old back tried pushing. Nada.

A pickup truck filled with five of her relatives came by within minutes. Same story. Nothing short of a tow truck was going to haul my car back to safety.

Okay. This young woman doesn't know me but, when I introduce myself, says her husband went to school with my sons. She drives me to a neighbor's house. I call Normand the Wrecker Guy, a helpful, good-natured man with whom the Silver Fox and I have had many dealings over the past three decades.

So far I have been given assistance by seven strangers from the country whom I have never met.

While waiting for the tow truck, two more people stop and ask if they can help.

The first says, yes, the ditches are too damned deep but he can get me out with his truck. I explained I had already arranged for help.

The next guy nods when I tell him about the raccoons, blah blah blah and says, yes, his wife photographed them last summer.

Now, these people were French and they were English. Some were bilingual, others only spoke French or English, like myself.

But, even though we had never met and might never meet again, I was a neighbor and I was in trouble and they wanted to help.

It's these random acts of kindness that go a long way to counterbalancing all the ugliness that you find out there all too often.