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On the Kindness of Strangers

Road Trippin'

with Steve McCarthy

There are fundamentally two schools of thought regarding people's interactions with one another. Thomas Hobbes, way back when (I'll spare you most of the history lesson, difficult as that might be for me) thought people "Short, Brutish, and Mean…" and would do unto others before they we done unto themselves. John Locke (from whom Jefferson plagiarized much of the Declaration of Independence…there I go again) believed that people, when left alone, would exhibit the kinder, gentler side. As far as I'm concerned, given our experiences of the past week, Locke wins hands down.

I managed to lose a confrontation with a Volvo on the A69 between Carlisle and Hexam, making the car underivable. Three years of planning down the tubes. Yeah, and a bunch of money. This goes beyond the old "Stuff Happens", or "That's Racing/Road Trippin'" bromide. We were absolutely gutted. And that's where the kindness of strangers comes in. Without the many small and enormous kindnesses we've been shown, the help above and beyond the call of duty we've been given, I don't know where we'd be.

The small kindnesses started with the man we tangled with. Completely understanding, helpful in ways you'd never see in a Big City. I was so shook, I couldn't get the damn mobile phone to call AA, so he did from his phone, and waited about until he knew they were on the way. There was the older gentleman, a local, who came and chatted with us, trying to ease our pain. There were the other people who stopped to see if they could help. There was the tow truck driver who made sure the Blue Meanie was tucked in under the car cover in the recovery yard.

The people in the hotel we found (a 130 year old monster called the County Hotel, I'll write a whole epic just about this place) to Andy the waiter in the pub (The Griffin-WONDERFUL apple/cherry crumble and local craft beers) across the street that had heard Marianne tell our tale of woe and came up to us with condolences and real friendship (on our last night in Carlisle, he came to our table, saying we looked much better than that first evening), to the man who'd overheard us at the hotel and came up to us in The Griffin expressing his sorrow at our predicament.

Even people who didn't know our sorry tale, were inevitably kind, thoughtful, attentive, and, well, human.

Then there is the King of Kindness. One of our own, John Morrison, head of the TR Register in Cumbria. Phil Tucker, UK Chair of the TR Registry (and another stalwart without who's help we'd never have survived, I can't say enough about his contributions) put us in touch. John suggested, well, it was a bit more emphatic than that!) that I get AA to move the car to his house, where he had room in his garage for the wounded Meanie. It goes on, beyond this. He's managed to out do Patrick in Dublin, and that's saying A LOT! He's also agreed to essential be my agent while we continue our travels. The appraiser from Hagerty's is showing up at John's house at 7AM (we'll be able to be there too) and when the trucking company shows up to take the TR to Dublin and the ship home (that's a whole other tale), he'll be there to see to things. As the TV ads say, "And wait, there's more…" He's making sure that the hood (uh, bonnet) is secured for transport, and the broken headlamps are removed. And to put the cherry on top, he doesn't seem to care about a time line, "Let's just get it sorted, I've got the room, and your car will be safe." All said in the, well, curious, and at times barely intelligible to this poor Yankee's ears, Cumbrian Accent. I'm telling you, the adage of "give you the shirt off his back" doesn't half cover his kindnesses. I just hope that my humble scribblings pay him enough homage.

So, we seem to have everything sorted (even if a large spanner is needed to sort the insurance guy, but who knows, why should HE be the fly in the ointment? I'll keep my faith in humanity. There is a longstanding belief that CarGuys always help their own. Be they racers, hot rodders, concours exhibitors, or just the majority of us who just like cars, we will always bend over backward for one of our own. What we have found is that it's not just Car Guys. People are basically good, and when left to their own devices, will exhibit the true meaning of the old Golden Rule. John Locke, it seems, trumps Thomas Hobbes, and we are all the better for it.


"No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend's

Or of thine own were:

Any man's death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee."—John Donne