Sunday, November 20, 2011

Small kindnesses

We needed a 60-meter garden hose to reach the beginnings of a garden at the back of the property. Some big lush plants, thinned from someone else's place, had been dug in there. They were looking limp.

Lucio said a place downtown called Fernandez had good prices for a manguera de jardin, a garden hose. Barato. Cheap.

Found Fernandez, parked the bike, bought the hose, and lugged it back to the parking garage. 100 meters actually, because it didn't come in 60-meter length. Did you know, 100 meters of garden hose is heavy? I didn't. I had a feeling this could be a problem to bring home on the bike.

I rigged up something to hold the hose to the rack, using the bike lock and my only bungee cord, paid the parking attendant, who wished me luck, and started home. It was precarious and the bike wobbled along the busy street. I had to go slow. A couple of blocks along a woman in a passing car pointed at the back of the bike and I looked. I was losing my load. The coil of hose had slipped halfway off the rack. I found a quiet spot on the sidewalk and tried to untangle things. Somehow in the process I had lost the key to my bike lock.

I looped the heavy hose over my shoulder and started to walk the bike and the damned manguera the 10 or so remaining blocks home, thinking of how much it was going to hurt. Then a bottle collector, a scavenger, pulled up on his tricycle - the cargo carriers that are ubiquitous here. He said something about how I should tie the hose to the bike rack - it could take 80 kilos.

I told him something like, I had tried that, it was too heavy, it had already fallen. I was feeling irritated, and was probably kind of dismissive.

Overlooking my lack of graciousness, he calmly took a skein of twine from his own bike rack and methodically unwound a length. He brought it over and expertly, patiently, bound the hose to the bike rack, looping and knotting it on three sides. Now it won't fall, he said.  Ahora no se cae. I asked if I could pay him for the twine but he refused. After I thanked him and asked his name, Juan Jose wheeled away, merged back into traffic with his collection of empties and disappeared around the corner before I could take a picture.

It was extraordinarily touching to receive this needed help from someone who surely didn't have a lot to spare. Why reach out to this foolish gringa lady who should have, could have taken a cab or something?

I made it home without a hitch and slowly untied the hose from the bike rack. The twine was a fine braid of henequen, strong and soft from long use. Such a simple object, and a simple act of kindness on a busy street. Both of them, typical of this place. Tipico.


  1. Nice story. And, as you said, these things happen often around here. A nice post.

  2. We've experienced several small, quiet kindnesses, too...the type that we'd be hard pressed to receive in our own small town in Canada.

  3. Lovely encounter. Thanks for giving it circulation in the blogosphere, vecina!


  4. A random act of kindness...the very best and most powerful.

  5. Thanks, friends. It's so striking, how generous and open people are here. It takes some adjustment from my urban, North American attitudes to accept this for what it is. I'd love to hear your stories of similar encounters.

  6. Loved it, Debbie! I've lots of encounters to report, but need some time to prepare them. But there are so MANY here! My favorite, briefly, is about a cab driver whom I happened to flag down twice in the same day, while dealing with a personal emergency of mine. He knew that. I did not know that my next stop was only a couple blocks away. He took me, and charged me-- nothing.

    Yes, the graciousness and basic fairness of so many people here needs recognition. Thanks for your post.