Does the Adage, "Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself" Include his Truck?
For the past month, or so, I've been in an interesting interaction with one of my neighbors in Durham. For me, it's about sharing public space in an equitable manner, as good neighbors should. For him, it is apparently about using public street space as a free parking garage for six or seven vehicles, on both sides of the street. Last year, there was an ancient black pickup truck under a ragged tarp, parked in the space next to his house. When I came back to Durham in April, the old truck was parked in the adjoining vacant lot; its spot now occupied by a sedan of questionable age and mobility, under the same ragged tarp.
The City Neighborhood Improvement Association made a call (perhaps at the behest of the vacant lot owner), and notified my young neighbor, that something must be done. The old truck was moved from the lot to the street, and before long, was yellow-tagged by the police department for removal. Not one to give up, or give in, our young hero drafted into service, a friend, who in exchange for living in a trailer at the back of the property, took on the challenge of getting the truck back on its tires before the junk heap became its final resting place.
Day and night, the work went on; supplies were bought and trundled to the work site in a Radio Flyer Classic Red wagon from Bill's trailer. Late into the night, sometimes past 1am, laser lights lit up the truck's gutted insides. Sometimes, all that could be seen during the day, were Bill's skinny, sunburnt legs protruding from underneath the truck as 95-degree weather heated the metal, making it unbearable to the touch. Part of me just wanted the eyesore removed from view; the other part held out hope that the truck would respond positively to all the attention it was being given.
Today, I worked outside, on my front porch, re-potting a plant, and I had a clear view of Bill as he worked; head bent inside the engine compartment, knees bent as he lay on his back underneath the car. What was that sound? A high pitched squeal, prolonged coughing, then thick grey smoke belched its way through an exhaust pipe that probably served as the winter home for a squirrel family.
I involuntarily held my breath as the engine struggled to turn over. There! It's caught its breath and is holding steady. Bill is ecstatic! He makes a phone call, and within 10 minutes, young Daniel arrives to celebrate Bill's success in resurecting a symbol of Daniel's childhood happiness.
"They lived happily ever after," is not how this story ends. Later in the afternoon, another friend came by to pay homage to Bill's genius. But now, the old truck exhausted from its efforts to come back to life, remained silent as Bill turned the key. It is almost midnight, and there are no laser lights, no conversation, no open hood.
Maybe tomorrow, new parts, luck and skill will coax the old truck to show that it can be saved.