Story Corner: The Dead Battery

Since moving to Small Heath, our 7 seater has been been a source of bonding between Tim and our Pakistani neighbour who drives taxis for a living. He’s discussed car issues and local garages at length with Tim (whom he calls Uncle Tom), accompanied him on a couple of occasions to take our habitual smoker to be looked at, and has even given us a spare wheel and attempted to change our flat tyre by torch light.

This time, our neighbour (whom we recently discovered has a different name from the one we’ve been calling him all year) happened to be standing outside when our car battery was flat as we were trying to set off with the kids, which is usually a spectacle in itself, but this time turned into a show for the whole street to watch.

First, he and Tim tried to push the car back out of the drive with me at the wheel with the children strapped in. Despite their best efforts, the car wouldn’t budge once they hit an incline at the edge of the pavement. He nodded his head at me and with a cheeky twinkle in his eye, said, “Jess, you ate too much when you were in America.” Taking the joke as a sign of friendship and a clever tactic to save face, I suggested maybe I try pushing and Tim could steer.

We demoted Judah and Abigail from passengers to bystanders, but left Elisabeth in her car seat since she was blissfully sleeping through the whole ordeal. With a big heave we pushed the car back a good few feet. I was tempted to make some triumphant comment about anything being easy by comparison to giving birth, but didn’t want to ruin my victory by pushing cultural barriers too far.

By this point, our Yemeni neighbour from across the street, whose family we’ve only occasionally smiled at across the busy road, had come over to see if he could offer his assistance. He was friendly and unflustered, but I couldn’t help but wonder what he made of my involvement in the process given that I could hardly picture his fully veiled wife out pushing a car with the men (although as a mum of six, I’m sure she could beat me at it!).

As the guys set out to push the car the last distance needed to get it into proximity to our neighbour’s car to connect the jumper leads, I worried about the car being rolled into the busy road with Eli still in the back. So I did what any protective mother would do…I walked into the middle of the road and stopped traffic. The drivers looked a bit skeptical at first, but it worked.

It wasn’t long before our neighbour was calling my name to get my attention, and waving me to come out of the street since they’d gotten the car where it needed to be. Within minutes, our car came to life again, we thanked our two kindly neighbours, and were on our way.

A couple of months later, we’ve had to replace it after all (selling that was a whole different story) and hope to have one less stress factor in life. But stress factors are often what build friendships, as long as we’re prepared to be humbled.