Western Cape, South Africa
The recession has hit us harshly, and my friend and I were on the road in early 2009 near Cape Town, South Africa, distributing flyers advertising our business. Then disaster struck! The car began to make strange noises, slowed down… slowed down some more… crawled… and died.
We had been taking a short cut to the highway, and the place where we broke down was, to put it mildly, NOT the safest of areas. We sat there, my friend trying to start the car until we could hear the battery giving out.
Cars behind us were hooting. I had to get out and try to push a heavy vehicle uphill and out of the way of traffic. I thought I was quite strong for a not-very-tall-40-something woman but, despite my best efforts, that car was going nowhere. People were swearing at us, my friend was in tears and I was losing the battle to prevent the car from sliding backwards into on-coming traffic.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, an elderly vagrant covered in jailhouse tattoos from fingertip to scalp staggered towards me.
Without a word, he placed his hands next to mine on the trunk and started pushing. My friend, realizing she was moving, looked up into the rear-view mirror and was confronted with the blue-inked face of our assistant, and screamed in shock.
When we were safely in a lay-by near the traffic lights, tattoo-man melted away into the thick bush at the side of the road — or so we thought. After phoning the AAA and being told there would be an hour long wait, I got out of the car to stretch my legs.
Instantly, the tattooed man appeared at my side. “Is someone coming to help ma’am?” he asked.
My first thought was to say, “Yes, my husband the policeman, and his six friends in the armed response unit will be here in seconds!” But there was something in his expression that compelled me to tell him the truth.
For the next hour, he sat with us on the side of the road. We chatted about his life, our business, his friends in the squatter-camp where he lived, our current financial problems and how difficult it is to stay positive while looking for work, what might be wrong with the car, his children…. The hour flashed by.
When the AAA arrived, he stood to one side until he was satisfied that we really were mobile again, and then stepped forward to say goodbye.
His parting words were “Ma’am mustn’t worry, there are only so many times things can go bad before they go good again.”
As we drove off, I pondered how guardian angels turn up in the least likely of guises.