We’ve gotten a lot of snow over the past week in our area, so after I got home from work this afternoon, I shoveled snow for my older neighbor down the street. As soon as I started, I heard someone yelling, trying to get my attention. It was yet another neighbor, an older woman I’d never met before, and she was unable to get her car up the steep, icy incline in her driveway.
She asked for my help, and detecting an accent, I asked where she was born. “Budapest,” she smiled. “If I had four-wheel drive, I could make it, but all I have is this shitty Kia. This driveway is terrible. When I bought this house, it was in September; if I had known how terrible it would be in the winter, I wouldn’t buy it. And I can’t leave the car here. It will slide back into the street. I also have a bad hip so it is hard for me to walk on the snow.” I chuckled at her forwardness and colorful language, especially for an older woman I just met.
I did my best to clear the driveway, chipping at the ice with a garden spade, and scattering some salt, but it didn’t work. She would attempt the climb, and then slide back down again. After several tries, she asked me to drive her car. I backed up into another neighbor’s driveway across the street to build as much momentum as possible, and it worked.
She couldn’t get into her house because the front door was chained from the inside. Normally she would enter through the back, but now she couldn’t walk up her driveway because of the ice. So I asked if she wanted me to enter via the backdoor, go through her house and open the front door. “If you trust me,” I said. “Of course I trust you!” she snapped. “But there is a security code.” So this woman I just met gave me her security code, and I walked quickly through her house, glancing around, and I found my way to the front door, which was not chained from the inside after all.
With the front door open, I went down the front stairs to the sidewalk and returned her keys. “Thank you, Patrick, you really helped me. I will have to make you some chicken paprikash to repay you.” “Sounds good,” I said. “I also noticed you have books everywhere. Are you a professor, or a librarian?” Another smile. “I was a teacher and a museum director of archaeology in Budapest. Now I am 71 years old and retired.” I laughed and said something like “Archaeology! I’m a biological anthropologist!” After taking a moment to comprehend the coincidence, and talking more about our backgrounds, she said “Come back inside,” she said. “I want to show you something.”
Amid all the piles of books was her prize possession, a centuries old drawing of Budapest, hanging on her wall. It was impressive and she was clearly proud of her roots. Perhaps best of all was that two strangers got to meet and help each other out. Before leaving, we exchanged contact information and shook hands. If she calls, then I may be looking forward to some chicken paprikash.
- People are interesting.
- Small cars are good for urban environments, but they may be shitty at climbing up hills.
- Don’t forget about winter if you buy a house in New England in September, particularly if it’s on the south side of the street. Too much shade.
- I guess archaeologists swear a lot, even retired 71 year-old Hungarians.
Lesson #5: You should have a podcast so you can interview people like her. She’s exactly the sort of person I’m always looking for to be on mine.
I would have to shovel a lot of houses to find enough people like that.