Ivy-covered walls in the Italian countryside are picturesque, but not always as innocent as they look.
We thought it would be a good idea to hop into our 1999 Renault to take it for a spin. After all, the poor thing had been sitting there for far too long exercising its primary function as a fruit dryer. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that the windshield of this proud French vehicle is the linchpin of our efforts to manage all the fruit we produce. The method goes like this: put the fruit of the moment in a foil-covered IKEA roasting pan on a sunny Umbrian day, and you're good to go. Or rather, you will be going nowhere for a while, while that fruit caramelizes nicely.
The red-lit "STOP OR THIS VEHICLE WILL EXPLODE!" did not deter my optimistic husband in the least. "This car is so old that it often says alarming stuff like that, but doesn't really mean it."
But I was not convinced. Especially after we got to the main so-called road, and I pointed out that the gas gauge was reading "empty." We live quite a few nasty bumps away from the nearest gas station. Then there was the little matter of this being the worst drought and heat wave in Italian memory, and J recalled that he had not checked the car's water level in the recent past.
The prudent decision seemed to be to pull into the little road not far from our driveway--the one from which I never see any cars emerge--to turn around and return to home base to see if the car needed water. But just as J was turning the wheel to back out of this little road, a very LOUD CLUNK stopped us cold. When J got out to check the damage, he was not a happy man. I could tell from the expletives and frustrated gestures that I should just stay put and wait for my heart palpitations to settle down before asking any questions.
According to James, this was quite the conundrum. The parking light being ripped off was just the tip of the iceberg. The entire bumper that had held that light was still partially attached, askew, and dragging. In that state, that Renault might just as well have had a roasting pan full of drying figs, because it was definitely going nowhere.
I was just congratulating ourselves that, having stopped on this non-trafficked spot, at least we were not blocking the main road, when a car appeared from the other direction. That car was occupied by a cute dog and his contadino master naïvely hoping to get home for lunch.
By that time, I had called our mechanic whose garage is some 20 minutes away, to see about a tow. But as every self-respecting Italian knows, one should never have a disaster around August 15, because that's the Ferragosto holiday when everyone flies the coop. We had chosen to take our ride on August 14, but that clearly did not give a wide enough berth to this special holiday.
A quick call to our best friend, Farmer Galli, for whom every day is a workday, found him in the middle of an uninterruptible job in the field. When his sweet wife tracked him down, he said he could be with us in an "oretta"--about an hour.
All, however, was not lost, because the guy in the car in front of us was heading our way, and he did not have a gun. Rather, like any self-respecting farmer, he had a car full of tools, and the genius for solving problems like ours. He even laughed when I said how pleased I was that we were stopped on a road where no one passes. "But," he replied, "I come here twice a day to work on my fields."
Then he swung into action. He and J figured out how to get us moving, and with minimal further damage to the car. What saved the day? Pliers, a wire cutter, and some wire (which I've noticed is a key element of a farmer's arsenal). Of course without contadino know-how, all the tools in the world would not have helped.
As it was, we were lucky to make a new friend who was willing to go out of his way to help us get out of his way.
I found out that his name is Antonio. But maybe his middle name is Leonardo? Given the jams we get into, we are fortunate that on our traffic patterns, genius is not in short supply. Nor is kindness.
| THIS IS HOW OUR 1999 RENAULT FRUIT DRYER LOOKED ONCE SAFELY BACK IN OUR DRIVEWAY.|
SEE ANYTHING MISSING?