I love my pink van. It was passed down to me from my mom. It never has run well. I think the week they drove it off the lot, it broke down. Faulty electrical system or something, but it always had some stalling problems. I left it sit for 2 years in front of our building because it was so unreliable. Finally, just this year, I decided to get it fixed and got it new tires, new seat covers and a new fuel pump. I even had the outside painted. So cute.
Now, though I love my pink van, (Evan calls it the pink hazard), it has a few quirks. The choke has to be just right when you start it. You can’t turn corners too fast or it goes on two wheels. The horn gives you an electric shock when you press it. The windshield wiper sticks every 3 or 4 strokes and you have to reach out and unhook it. The mirrors bounce out of place quite regularly so you learn to drive with the force. But I love how small it is and how it zips through the narrow gaps in traffic. And it’s fast. Not like these slow hauling diesels everyone drives.
Anyhow, all that saying, I had a meeting with Social Services in Malabon and though I had an idea the road would be flooded, I like to dare life sometimes. As we got to the main road where there is always some water on the road, I realized all too late that we were not going to make it. Sputter sputter. I steered us to the side of the road just in time.
So there we sat. In the pouring rain. Each time a jeepney drove by or a delivery truck, the waves washed over the front lights of my little pink van. I wondered silently if my pink van would float.
Our meeting was at 2. We were already perfectly on time. It was 2:15. We would have been just the right time late, true Filipino style. Now I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. I hadn’t brought my phone and I had very little money. (Yeah, I know I know.)
My social worker was silent. I’m sure she was thinking the same thing. High heels, dress pants, blouse. No umbrella. Knee deep water. Not our area. Amy, our Australian volunteer, was in the back seat moaning that she didn’t have her camera.
After a few minutes of contemplation, I hollered at a passing by tricycle driver to call some boys and push us backwards to the gas station. They came and they pushed us through the water. What a sight we were. Well dressed women in a crazy pink van and 10 young shirtless troublemakers pushing us with shouts and hoorays. My social worker kept her window shut.
We got to the gas station and I parked. I paid the boys and they left. Now the problem of getting to city Hall was next. Every street was flooded. Taxi’s wouldn’t go. Tricylces couldn’t make it and we were in dress clothes. I stood scanning the crowd of waiting drivers and guys hanging out, hoping to see a familiar face. Suddenly I heard “Ate Charity”! My heart leaped. Someone knew me! I had no idea who he was but I could have hugged him. He quickly assessed our situation and found a high set tricycle and we climbed in. A price was set and away we went.
Through side streets, and main roads, where the trike could go, we sputtered and putted. Several times the water was over the tail pipe and I was sure we were going to stall. The water was filthy, full of floating garbage and I’m not sure what all but I was not getting down and walking in it. I made sure the driver knew that. The rain started and Minet and I exchanged glances. (She isn’t much for adventure, bless her heart.) We could see city hall, the tops of the building but the streets were several feet deep in water. Around and around the blocks we went. What a relief it was to be dropped off at the front of the building.
Our meeting went well. We dealt with the 6 cases we needed to. After we were done, we had coffee and crackers and talked about life. The office was unbelievably cramped and hot. You get a very different appreciation for social services after a visit like that. No space, no shelves, the director has a little private store where you can buy coffee and didn’t even acknowledge our presence but sat at her desk counting her money. It was unbelievable. Anyhow, we were sure we would get the help we needed from the social worker.
Now the problem of getting home. I knew Aries would be driving the young lady who had just given birth on Sunday, home to Catmon. We called him and sure enough he was able to pick us up and take us back to the pink van (which I would never leave unattended overnight.)
I tried to start her. She does have an attitude sometimes but I can usually get her to start. She just wouldn’t. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walk by. Can’t get it started, he smiled? I had several retorts I would have loved to used but I smiled and said “She’ll start.” My pride was on the line now. I had already called my dad on one phone and the battery died. I had tried to call Evan on Amy’s phone and ran out of prepaid load. We were quite stuck in an area known for crime and we knew no one. The young man opened the door and stuck his head in. I had already leaned the seat back- I was determined to find the spark plugs that I knew should be dried out- (the motor is under the passenger seat). He poked his grease covered hands in and took something off of my motor and then said “now try.” I was taken aback and well, did what he said. After several failed attempts I suggested pushing it. He insisted he do the driving and I got out, now in bare feet having thrown my heels in the back seat, and stood by Minet, who was still silent. After several runs down the gas station parking lot, I raised my hands, looked to heaven and said “Hello, God? We need a little help.” I yelled at the guy that this was the last run. It was getting dark. Minet still had a long way to get home to her babies, I knew my own little ones were at home, and I was just about done having adventures for the day. Yes, the last run, it started. He got out of the van and my gratefulness tumbled out. “No problem, ma’am. Life is like that sometimes, isn’t it.” He smiled and was gone, refusing the money I offered.
We got in the van, relieved to say the least, and squealed off down the road. I was almost sick to my stomach when I realized I needed gas. Not a problem with most vehicles but with my lovely pink van, the key in the ignition opens the gas tank. That mean shutting off the van we just spent an hour trying to get running.
Well, no choice. I shut if off. Put my last 500 pesos gas in and of course, she wouldn’t start. Shouts of “Push! Push!” and the gas boys pushed me down the parking lot. It started. I did several donuts around the parking lot and at a break in traffic took off once again for home.
It was an uneventful 2 hour ride home in bumper to bumper traffic and drizzling rain. I was color coded (which means I’m not allowed to drive on Tuesdays and I can get stopped and hassled and all those lovely things and my license was stolen with my wallet two weeks ago). I had to drive sort of incognito, watching for the traffic enforcers and keeping behind other vehicles but Amy and I had wonderful conversation. Minet had opted to ride with Aries. I think she was adventured out.
As we turned the final corner home, I got stopped by the red light. As is the fad now, a teenage boy started washing my windows. I yelled and fussed “I really really don’t have any money! Stop. My windshield wipers don’t even work!” He poked his little head in my van. “I’m hungry.” I told him to go to Gentle Hands down the street and we would feed him. He smiled opened the side door and jumped in. “I’ll just come now.” The light was green and away we went. Somewhat tired, we pulled into our parking stall and I left the young boy with the guards and some boys to feed him.
Upstairs to do bedtime and get my kids tucked in. It was already 730pm! Once the kids were in bed, boys all greeted, state of the laundry and house assessed, I thought I might collapse into bed. But cries of chocolate chip cookies were heard because Ross, our dear American Volunteer, had had an equally long and difficult day. (just think baby poo and homeschooling 8 year olds.) I quickly whipped up a batch. We all needed them. I left the boys, Amy, and Ross, eating cookies and playing Wii, and went to bed, wondering if it was still only Tuesday.
On a side note, Ross had prayed in the afternoon that God would protect us and be with us in our meeting. He had opted not to come along because he wanted a quiet afternoon. He had prayed for God to send an angel to be with me. He had prayed at exactly 430 pm. Ever see an angel dressed as a mechanic?