Witnesses and contributors

The other day we were taking a drive as we do on days BBM doesn’t feel like crawling around the boat and I am not tied to work commitments. We saw something which looked like an old belt in the middle of our lane. As we got closer, I thought perhaps it was a piece of rubber tire. I needed to make a decision whether I was going to straddle the object or go around it. There was not enough room to go toward the ditch, so I checked that there was no on-coming traffic and went around the object into the other lane. As we passed, we saw that it was a manhole cover which we had only seen from the edge. It was standing at a 45-degree angle with a gaping hole underneath. Enough to cause a small car like ours to flip like in the movies if we were to try to straddle the heavy metal and drive over it.

We pulled over to ring the police about the hazard. I hear BBM say that he wasn’t confident in taking care of the heavy manhole cover himself. He admitted his age and his knee replacement not long ago. His is then directed to ring the council. BBM states that will not do any good since their offices were closed on this day and we can never get through to them on their open days. He tells the listener that he believes he has given an appropriate warning of the hazard and it is now in their hands. Thirty minutes later we receive a call from a woman at the council who wants to confirm all the information again. About the same length of time passed before we received yet another call from a young man who said he was driving up and down said road and couldn’t see anything. Were we sure it was a manhole? Was the object actually in the middle of the road? The inference was that we were so old that we were in fact doddery.

Yes, I state the shape and approximate dimensions of the object. He congratulates me on my approximation because I had used the exact dimensions of a manhole. He keeps a running commentary going as he drives along. Suddenly, jumps out of his car and he says he has found a manhole which has been tampered with. Someone has already returned it to its place. I apologise that we hadn’t been confident to take care of the manhole as well as traffic management. He agreed and stated that it scared him to take care of such incidents and he was only 35 years old! BBM notes that there are some upsides to being older. That reminds me of a tragedy waiting to happen on the beach the other day.

We were again in my little car. We parked to cool off with the sea breeze blowing through our open windows and watch the boats coming and going. The tide had gone a long way out, but was returning as fast as the fishermen. We see a young man running flat-chat down the beach and look past him to see why the rush. A boat has been loaded onto a trailer and pulled by hand higher onto the beach. There was a gap where the high tide had drained a channel between the dry sand and a wet sandbar. This meant that tractors or trucks would need to drive over the shallow channel and wet sandbar to pull boats out of the water with trailers attached. Unfortunately for the young man running down the beach toward the boat club, his van (yes, van) had bogged down in the softer sand of the channel where the high tide had drained away. Because of the slight bump of the dry sand, as the van’s back tires sank, the belly of the van rested on the bump.

We watched as the young man ran up to a boat club tractor and tried to start it. It didn’t start. He runs to other vehicles around. Then, he runs up to an SUV next to us which happens to have a towbar. The elderly couple agree to follow him back to his van. In the distance we see one of his mates trying to dig out one of the rear tires. This means the van is now beginning to list to one side.BBM notes that they should have an anchor rope which could help them. But he also notes that there are plenty of people now gathering around with advice. The young man had another three sprints up and down the beach, getting different vehicles with towbars to assist before a tractor finally arrived and pulled the van out just minutes before the tide began filling the channel with water again. BBM and I looked at each other and smiled. It was wonderful to be able to sit guilt-free in our tiny little car and watch the drama unfold. There was no pressure to jump in and perform because a) BBM is officially classed as elderly now, and b) we have no tow bar. We’re enjoying this stage of life. We get all the excitement and none of the responsibility.

Having said that, our sense of community and duty does require us to perform when necessary. For example, as we approached a stop sign, I saw a cluster of three boys with super hero costumes. One turned slighty away from us, put his spiderman mask on and turned back toward us. The others quickly followed suit with their masks (aquaman and some other identity). Spiderman was clearly the leader since the others looked at him and then copied him as he came to rigid attention and saluted our passing car. Out of the corner of my eye I see BBM solemnly bring his hand up to return their salute. We continue to look straight ahead. As we drive away from the stop sign, we start chuckling. I note that in about five years’ time those same little boys will be mortified teenagers. I also note that it would thrill the boys no end to know that in that moment they had made BBM feel like a little boy himself, wanting to participate in their game.

We are full community participants, as witnesses and willing contributors.

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