It is a dark, dank, evening. I am sat in my car with Shano, a young girl I am teaching to drive. She is learning that driving is not always a fun activity. We are moving up a hill in a line of sluggish rush hour traffic passing bleak red brick terraced homes in Beeston, built to house the workers who toiled in long forgotten factories. It is fair to say it is not the most affluent district of Leeds.
The car in front of us stalls and the engine protests loudly as the driver attempts to restart it. The engine roars and screeches and the car disappears in a cloud of dense blue smoke. As the engine noise escalates, the car slides slowly but relentlessly back down the hill towards us. I released the handbrake and allow our car to edge back towards the bus behind us. Eventually the car stops and the driver, an old man in a flat cap, emerges out of the smoke, like a contestant on the TV show Stars in Their Eyes: Tonight, Matthew I’m going to be Gilbert O’Sullivan. I get out of my car and walk round to him.
‘Eee, lad, ‘ave no idea wot t’ matter is.’ He says.
I know; the clutch has burned out. I’ve now a number of problems: an old codger on the cusp of Alzheimer’s, his immobile car, a lonely learner in my car, and a queue of traffic stretching as far back as I can see.
But help is at hand, or, at my elbow to be exact.
‘We’ll push, love, if you steer t’car.’ It was the spokesperson of two women on their way home with bags of shopping.
They lead ‘Gilbert’ to the pavement and sit him on a wall and place their shopping bags at his feet. Bracing themselves behind the car they start pushing it up the the hill while it I steer it into the side of the road releasing the log jam of ungrateful motorists.
The next problem was what to do the wandered old man. To our relief he remembers the phone number of his daughter.
‘Ah’ve not got much credit on my mobile but I’ll give it a try.’ Said one of my helpers generously.
There was no answer. Then one of the ladies notices a letter lying on the front seat of his car. It is a document from the local surgery which stand at crossroads at the bottom of the hill.
Unsure of my insurance and worried about my pupil I weakly suggest I could drive him there.
‘No, we’ll take him, love. We know Cheryl on t’reception.’
So, the ladies pick up their shopping bags and set off back down the hill with the bemused old man.
With the New Year approaching, I leave the scene thinking that the world is okay. The two shoppers plodding up the hill with heavy bags could have reasonably walked on, ignored the car owner’s problem. But they didn’t. This small act of kindness by these two ladies of Beeston made me think that ordinary people with nowt, those that are ‘just managing’, don’t need to be told how to care for others by church leaders, politicians and celebrities with vast wealth and multiple property portfolios. The world will be okay, as long as ordinary people walk the walk, or in this instance, push the push.