In Praise of Plymouth

Nov 18, 2016

Dear Mum,

Greetings from Plymouth.  Not the one from my childhood on the south coast with the ships and the ocean breeze, the fish and chips and the fog.  The other one – the one here in Indiana.

I didn’t set out to come here today.  I was supposed to be driving to Bloomington with two of our kids.  Or behind them, actually.  You can imagine our mini-convoy.  The two kids in front, in the beat-up old white Jetta,  blasting Spanish pop music, while a motley collection of pots, pans and mis-matched bedroom furniture bounced around in the back seat.  Me bringing up the rear, with a bed, a couch and a fold-down table in the back of the station wagon. 

Ten minutes into our journey, the heavens opened.  Verily, the sky was rent like a Turner painting – if Neptune had ever visited Indiana, this is the awful retribution he would have visited upon our amber waves of grain.  Turning south on 31 was like driving into a car wash at high speed.  I lost sight of the kids somewhere in the mist.  Only to have my phone begin to ring.  Bad news.  Dad, my windshield wipers quit working!  We pulled off the road at exit 228 – we’re at a gas station, I think. 

I pulled up behind the kids.  Take my car, I said – I’ll see if I can find someone to help fix your wipers.  Accordingly, they drove off south, leaving me to limp into town peering out of the driver’s window to try and see the side of the road.  Suddenly, out of the deluge I saw what I think was a car sales place.  Gratefully, I parked the wounded vehicle and dashed inside.

Inside the door, I rubbed my eyes.  I was greeted by the sight of a yellow brick road winding across the showroom to the sales desk.  Along the way were a scarecrow and various other familiar-looking characters.  I seemed to have arrived in Oz.  The lady at the desk listened to my plight with great sympathy. I can’t help you right now, she said, but I know someone across town. A few minutes on the phone and she was directing me two miles down the road to a competitor’s business.

Back down the yellow bricks, into the white bar of soap, and another harrowing slide through storm-lashed yield signs and yellow lights.  My destination turned out to be a tire and repair center.  I was waved around to the middle bay of the repair shop, greeted by two eager young men, bursting to tackle a new challenge.

I took my place in the waiting room.  Imagine a concrete cell with one glass wall, a coca-cola dispenser and a vending machine that sells mainly snickers bars, a newspaper rack with the sports section from three months ago, and a happily bubbing Bunn-O-Matic.  I could imagine this imposing machine reducing its pot of coffee to base elements by the end of the work day.  Out in the bay, the boys were having a heated discussion, waving the dismantled windshield wipers at each other for emphasis.  After half an hour, they had things put back together, flipped a switch… and dissolved in tears of laughter.  Their boss came into the waiting room for his third cup of coffee with a face the color of the sky.  I began to realize this was going to be a long morning, and accordingly bought myself a snickers bar.  And then a second one.  Darn, these things taste good.  For an hour, I studiously paid no attention to the men behind the glass curtain.   

Finally, I looked up to see oil-streaked high fives being exchanged.   They’d worked it out!   The manager came in to deliver the news.  You’re good to go.  Sorry it took so long, but the guys hooked up your wipers upside down the first time round.  No problem, I said – I’m just so glad you could help me out.  What do I owe you?  I braced myself.  Forty one bucks, he replied.  What?  Two hours work by two guys, and that’s all?  I celebrated with another snickers, and got ready to drive out of town.

I hope I can get to Bloomington by nightfall.   Meanwhile, it turns out Plymouth is a pretty cool place.  It’s got yellow bricks, brains, courage and a really big heart.  I want to go back there again – when the sun is shining.

See you soon, Mum.