A Sicilian car repair, and people who are awesome.

posted in: Italian living | 4

First, let me say how overwhelmed I am by the generosity of people!

Second, let me say I’m impressed with the ingenuity and smoking skills of our new Sicilian mechanic.

So yesterday was Fiona’s 3rd birthday. Yay! We had a wonderful day — I’ll get to that later — but we also hit an unexpected snag along the way. One of her requests was to go to our favorite park in Aci Bonnacorsi, so we popped over there before lunch, intending to stay for an hour. Four hours later, we were home.

Look at that sweet birthday girl!! 

First, we happened to meet some lovely people in the park! Cristina and Salvo are a Sicilian couple who went to school together here, then both independently moved to New York where they met again years later. They got married, moved back to Sicily and have a sweet little girl who I think was 2 or 3 years old. Lisa is an American who moved here for reasons that I’m unclear on because a lot of people were talking at once (ha!), and I believe her mother lives here too. She had a cute 3-year-old as well. We had a nice time talking at the park, after which we ended up agreeing to trade numbers and get together sometime as we all live in the area and have small children. Lisa: “Seriously, if you ever need help with anything, give me call!”

Me, literally 30 seconds later, as she is trying to leave: “WAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTT HELLLLPPPPPPP!!!”

So, my battery was dead. It is possible that I might have left the lights on. I only think that because the lights were on, and I’m the one who was driving, but how can we ever know FOR SURE?

So, Lisa, her mom, Salvo and Cristina all stopped to help me. None of us had jumper cables, so I urged them to go on and I’d figure it out. Instead, they started asking various people in the general vicinity whether they had some. Meanwhile, I was asking my mom group whether anyone was available for a rescue mission and my sweet friend Tammy offered to come save us. I was about to accept when the Salvo found a dude with jumper cables and that guy went to work.

(Fun side note: I wasn’t sure they were doing this right because I haven’t jumped a car in forever. I must have looked nervous, because Salvo leaned over and told me “if he’s doing it wrong, he’ll blow up his car, not yours.” This was actually very comforting.)

One problem. Turns out the tiny Sicilian car was somehow not powerful enough to jump my big ass van. So they found a different guy with a larger car. It still wouldn’t work. The group decided that the entire battery must be dead, and suggested I really figure out whether I had roadside assistance because apparently most insurance here does. Turns out we did, and I called the number and they agreed to send a tow truck “within 40 minutes.” (Snort.) I sent the crowd off since I had it under control, and went to call Chris again to update him on what was happening.

And then I realized that I had nowhere to go with the kids when the truck came. And then I realized I had 12 percent battery on my phone and no way of charging it, and not a lot of battery to waste trying to figure it out. Cue panic.

Called Chris, told him I didn’t have time for anything but to tell him he needed to get the hell over here immediately (a solid 40 minutes from work). And then we settled in to wait. Chris ended up making it there before the tow truck, so I left him to wait on the tow truck while the kids and I went to locate Owen’s lost Hatchimals. (Found ’em!). While we were gone, a random delivery truck stopped and left a car battery right across the street on someone’s stoop. Ok ….? Chris asked the guy who seemed to belong to the building whether it was for us, and got a look like he was crazy.

About 90 seconds later, the tow truck arrived and we decided to ask him to try and jump it, just in case. He had a portable unit and boom! It worked. Go figure. Of course, the problem then became whether it would ever start again without being jumped. After 10 minutes we tested it and it wouldn’t, so the tow truck driver — who seemed to be talking to random guy across the street who had the random battery on his stoop — decided that it was dead and we needed to go to a repair place for a new one. Since it was mid-afternoon, everything was closed for riposto. Tow truck guy indicated that we should follow him, and took us to a nearby shop where he called a number on the door.

Ten minutes later, the owner  (I think?) showed up. About two minutes later, three other cars of employees? family members? had showed up to help as well. This number included a woman who had in the trunk of her car a battery that looked REMARKABLY like the one that has mysteriously turned up on the side of the road a couple blocks away.

This seems like an excellent time to mention that no one we ran into spoke English, but Chris did an excellent job of figuring out what was going on. Unlike me, he doesn’t panic when he doesn’t immediately understand what is being said. What a guy!

So the guy who seemed to be in charge had a cigar hanging out of his mouth, which is possibly the reason why he didn’t say anything other than “salve” (hi) the entire time until he presented the bill. This thing NEVER left his mouth, even when he was elbows deep in our car with about four other dudes standing around watching.

Our car only barely fit into this garage. 

While we were waiting, it came to our attention that there was a surprising amount of sawing coming from the garage. I’m not going to pretend that didn’t concern us a little because our thought was, really, what the fuck are they sawing for? What is happening to our car?? Are they sawing the battery? Why??

Eventually they finished up, gave us a bill for 90 euro and we managed to both get the car started AND get it out of the garage unscathed. It wasn’t until we got home and opened the hood to find out what all that sawing had been about …

Yep, I guess the battery was a smidge small. I see no potential problems here! 

So, overall this was a fairly annoying exercise but what sticks out to me is how wonderful people were during the whole thing. I had met the four people who helped us not 20 minutes beforehand, and yet they spent a solid 30 minutes trying to help me get everything sorted. The various other Sicilians who got enlisted to help me had no reason to spend their time trying to jump my boat of a vehicle, but they not only did so — and offered to let me borrow the jumper cables until whenever I left like bringing them back! — but also refused the money I tried to give them. Salvo and Cristina also called me 30 minutes after they left, just to make sure that I didn’t need them to come back.

People rock, guys. For real.

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