June 30th & July 1st, 2013.
My first full day on the island ended with a desperate phone call, ruined makeup and my raw hands holding an RCMP officer’s business card.
The trip out here was a real test of independence for me and with my arrival at my new home; that test was just getting started. A few posts ago I wrote about independence and how I’m beginning to think that it might be a different thing than I had originally thought, that cloudy idea is slowly becoming clearer.
After taking a few moments to enjoy my new surroundings, I found Bernie (my landlord) and he gave us a tour through my new place. It was nicer than I could have dreamed. A beautifully bright, open-concept house with high ceilings and a cheery atmosphere. It was perfect. I was thrilled.
Bernie helped us unload about half the truck but it was a hot and humid day and it was supper time so I assured everyone that I could handle the rest of the contents by myself and we closed the truck for the night. Tanya and I headed into town to have dinner at the marina. We just wanted to sit by the ocean and relax for a bit.
The marina was lovely. It seems like nothing on this island is just beautiful, it has to be stunning so while the quaint beauty of white boats bobbing on the blue ocean was lovely, it was the giant mountain in the background that made it an “Island-worthy view”. Although its base was securely rooted in Washington, this sultan of mountains rose so far above its neighbours that from where we were it was all you could see. Mount Baker’s snow capped peak gleamed in the sunlight and I marvelled at its matchless size and beauty.
A whisper is all I could utter, “I can’t believe I live here.”
Tanya and I tried to stay up and enjoy my first night in my new home together but sadly as soon as we stopped moving we ceased being conscious. The long week had finally caught up with us.
In typical fashion, we were up at 4:30am and I drove Tanya to the airport in Victoria. It was Canada Day – Independence Day. I thought it fitting that on the day my country celebrated its independence, I would begin my new life and my experiment with “independence” here on the island. (I would be on my own here for about six weeks until Paul could join me.)
Now, I’m not a person who gets to see many sunrises so we stole a few moments at The Malahat Summit to soak in the beginning of my first full day on the island. What a welcome I received!
I dropped Tanya at the airport, hugged her, thanked her profusely for her huge sacrifice for me (Tanya hates flying) and then she was gone. I was alone. Here is where the real “In Dependence” begins.
I spent the rest of the day unloading the truck by myself. It’s slow work when you’re doing it all by yourself but I didn’t mind. Independence.
By the end of the day the truck was empty and swept and ready to be returned. Independence.
I drove the truck over to where the tow dolly was lying in the grass and crouched down to lift the hitch. All I had to do was walk it a few feet to the truck and drop it on the hitch. Easy. Independence.
I straightened my legs to lift the dolly….nothing happened. I should say that I attempted to straighten my legs but they wouldn’t move. With all my strength I could not budge that dolly one inch. Now what?
Here’s where the real “In Dependence” kicks in. I had to ask for help. I had to ask people I had just met the day before to help me with my problem. My stomach turned to knots.
My new neighbour, Ben, was home. I went back inside and paced around for a long time, stealing momentary glances out the window to see if he had come out of his house for some reason. I can’t really say why it was so hard to ask for help. All I can say was that it was soooo much harder than I expected it to be. In my entire adult life, I have never lived in a place where you talked to your neighbours and you certainly never asked them for help.
It was getting late and the truck had to get back so I finally stepped out of my comfort zone, up to Ben’s door and knocked.
I explained my situation and he quickly lifted the tow dolly onto the truck and cheerfully helped me get the car back on the trailer and tied up.
With a little help I was on my way to the city to return the truck. “In Dependence.”
That wasn’t so hard after all.
It was 8:00pm when I left. I figured the entire job of dropping of the truck would take an hour and a half from door to door – tops.
With Google’s help I headed straight to the rental yard. The problem was that when I arrived at the address, the rental yard wasn’t there. So I googled another U Haul drop off centre and headed across town. That one was nowhere to be found either. By this time I had burned enough gas to need to top up before my return so I stopped off at a gas station and asked the (12 year old) attendant if he knew where I could leave the truck. He did! I wrote down his detailed instructions and was on my new way with renewed hope that my days driving this huge rig would soon be over.
I drove all the way through town and out the other side but there was no U Haul location anywhere.
Admittedly, by this time I was getting a little frustrated.
Once again, I consulted with Google and headed back the way I had come. On my way to my fourth destination I found the second place I had looked for. I parked the rig across the street in a mall parking lot and walked across the street to figure out where I was supposed to leave the truck.
Although Google had told me that the lot had a 24 hour drop off centre. The gate was padlocked and there was no one around. I searched the property but there was definitely no place to leave a 37 foot vehicle.
So….I walked back to the truck and continued my journey to my fourth possible solution.
When I arrived at the fourth destination I could see U Haul trucks parked in rows in the lot. What a welcome sight! Of course the gate was locked but I could see a spot on this side of the gate large enough to hold my rig and a drop box for the keys. Perfect!
It was dark when I finally pulled in to the truck’s final destination. I went to the dolly and began to release the straps for the car. The first strap was a bit of a challenge but it didn’t take me long to figure it out and I was half way to freedom.
I moved to the other side of the car and slipped the strap through the mechanism. Wait. This one wasn’t working like the other one. This one wasn’t working at all. The strap wouldn’t budge. I pulled and twisted and reefed and pleaded but that strap would not move. Not one milimetre.
Two hours went by and I was still heaving and wrenching. It was dark. I was in what looked like a questionable area of town. I thought about knocking on the door of the house beside the truck but when I looked at the house it seemed to be made mostly of tarps and I wasn’t sure how to knock on a tarp so I resorted to trying to flag down passing cars.
No one stopped.
Suddenly being independent wasn’t so much fun.
I thought of calling Bernie but I knew he was already in bed and just didn’t feel comfortable asking him to get out of bed and drive a half an hour to help a practical stranger.
I had made it so far, I had gone through so much and I had kept it together; I had made it work. This is the moment where it fell apart for me – I broke down and cried. I felt so alone and so helpless. I was scared and cold and tired and my fingers were raw from trying to force the strap through the mechanism. Independence.
It was almost 2am in Ontario but I called my husband. I knew he couldn’t help me but he has a beautiful way of calming me when I lose my composure. I sent him pictures of the clamp and he tried to walk me through loosening the strap but to no avail.
Then I did something I’m not proud of. For a woman trying on her new independence this was a low point for me. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and I was about as desperate as you can get by this point in time.
I called the police. Yep. Go ahead and laugh but I did. “In Dependence.”
Through my tears, I explained my situation to the dispatcher. She was very understanding and said they would send someone over to help me.
I crawled back into the cab of the truck to wait for my night in shining armour to arrive.
I suddenly felt much smaller in relation to my truck and it was quite the climb up and into the cab.
About an hour passed and finally a white RCMP cruiser pulled up and shone its spotlight on the truck. I got out and spoke with the officer and he grabbed his flashlight to take a look.
About 45 seconds.
That’s how long it took him to loosen the strap – because I didn’t feel small enough already. Unbelievable. Why couldn’t I have done that!?
I reversed the car off the dolly while the officer’s back up arrived on the scene.
I thanked the officers and they left.
Just like that. I was free! I cannot tell you how good it felt to get into my tiny car which suddenly matched the size of my tiny ego.
I stumbled up the steps to my front door. It was midnight. I had been up since 4am. I had carried half my worldly possessions up those stairs that day. I had rubbed my hands raw and had cried my makeup all over my face.
I fumbled for my keys in the dark. Limp, exhausted, dishevelled and beaten.
I looked up to the sky wondering what lessons I was supposed to have learned today and why lessons have to be so difficult to learn. Suddenly it was clear. The sky was filled with stars. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many stars. It was dazzling.
I stood there basking in the beauty and remembered one of my favourite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.
“But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period…”
Sometimes we need dark days to remember that we need other people. Those shining stars in our lives that light our way and keep our lives beautiful.
I will try to appreciate the dark times in my life. They teach me that I am not alone.
They teach me that “In Dependence” can be a beautiful thing.