Sunday, May 23, 2010

Je voudrais air s'il vous plait.

When you live in a place that speaks an unfamiliar language, you have an incredible amount of anxiety when going about your daily tasks. Daily errands, activities, and communications are far more difficult, and you always walk away from a conversation wondering if you pronounced words correctly, if your grammar was right, and if the person understood you.

Last week, after leaving french class, a man flagged me down while I was driving and spoke a lot of french to me. It took a minute to realize what he was saying... I had a flat tire. Ugh. This was just a day after being pulled over for driving down a one way street by an enraged police officer.

I pulled over not knowing what to do. How do I ask for help? How do I find a tow truck? Where do I go? What do I do?

Trying not to panic, I collected my thoughts and decided to risk driving on the flat 2 miles to the nearest gas station. While doing this, I was also praying that I would not run out of gas as the tank was on empty.

I rolled in to the nearest station and blurted out 'Je voudrais air s'il vous plait' and I pointed at the tire. (I would like air please.) The attendant spoke french back to me, quickly and with many, many words. The bottom line: no air pump at the station. Now what do I do?

I calmly called Rich at the office and put him on the phone with the gas station attendant. They agreed that I would pay him $10 to put the spare tire on the car.

Pop worked hard and fast. $10 was good money for him. After he changed the tire, he wanted me to drive with him to another station where we could fix the flat. Hind sight tells me I was crazy to get in the car and drive with a stranger, but I knew that I could trust Pop. I unloaded the huge double stroller that consumed the trunk of the car and entrusted it in the hands of one of Pop's co-workers.

I gave Pop the keys and we drove to an area of Dakar that I had never seen before. Rather than houses their were mostly shacks lining the streets. We pulled up to tire station that did not have a building, just walls made of old tires, and an old rusty bathtub full of water in the front that was used for checking tires for holes.

Pop exchanged greetings with some of the men, and within 5 minutes, my tire was fixed, changed, and we were also the proud owners of new tire iron. Pop paid the men and we drove back to the station where hopefully, our stroller was waiting for me.

We got back to the station where 3 men were all standing around the stroller and looking at it, probably trying to figure out what it was exactly. I gave Pop $20 which was probably his entire weeks salary. He was incredibly grateful as was I. I was so relieved to have him help, and he was happy to do so.

Merci beaucoup Pop.

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