madam - the potholeA few weeks back I was meeting a client at a coffee shop round the corner. There’s a little garden and its rather nice: nothing vastly special, but it’s quiet and the coffee’s good.

This particular day, my delightful client and I had been calling back and forth to work out exact timings as the coffee place wasn’t open bang on as usual.

I’d hammered on the door to no effect other than having the staff inside stare blankly back at me, so I’d wandered off for a few minutes. Meanwhile, my client parked up outside to see if it was open.

Bad move.

Very unfortunately for her, directly outside the café was a drainage hole without a grid cover.

As she stopped straight outside the café, her wheel slid exactly and entirely into the hole. Wheel and hole were a perfect fit. Her whole car sort of sagged into the hole, wedged tight.

Being an incredibly polite soul and not a panicker in anyway, she called to say ‘well the good news is that the place is open now’. Lovely, says I. I’ll be right over.

‘Well, there is a slight problem with starting our session, I’m currently stuck in a pothole’.

Personally I’d have led with that story – but then I’m not as polite as my client. I’d also have been worrying that it’d cost a fortune to get myself out of the hole, as no amount of clever reversing was going to make it out – too deep and too narrow – it needed some kind of dragging device, such as a tow-truck.

But not knowing all this, I offer to give her a push and see if we can get her out ourselves.

Till that is, I see the whole/wheel exact fit issue. That’s a bit more serious. We stand there staring at the hole, and how wedged in her car is, giggling slightly. A passer-by stops and suggests we go two doors down to a garage. There’s almost always a helpful passer-by in India. Whether or not their advice is any use is quite another matter, but there you go. In this case both the passer-by and the advice was helpful.

We saunter to the nearest garage-like place – no no, not here, next one over.

Incidentally, god alone knows what they were doing at that first place, but apparently it wasn’t a garage. I’m endlessly confused by what things appear to be doing and what they actually are doing in this country.

Anyway, my client asks the chaps at the garage to come and help – which they do.

All of them.

Which is about five people. Obviously a slow day in garage land.

They all troupe out and look at the car. They are slightly amused by the situation and rather more amused by the fact a white girl is stood with them contributing nothing at all. There is much laughing and giving of simultaneous advice. There is pointing.

The more senior of them asks if he can get in and do manly things with the steering wheel.

A small crowd begins to form (this is usual anyway, but with a conspicuous white person, it seems to happen even quicker). I realise I am adding nothing to this little scene and am probably actually hindering it by my presence – and gently back into the coffee shop. Stopping only to take this very quick snap of the building excitement.

Forgive the terrible framing, but I wanted to get the spirit of the thing.

Look at that boy, he’s quite giddy.

But here’s the thing. The four lads on the outside, leant on the car to push it away from the hole, and the senior chap on the inside just… drove out. It took about three minutes to get the car back on the road. And they wouldn’t even take a tip – my client had to force cookies and coffee on them.

In the UK that would have required calling roadside assistance, which would have taken hours to arrive and cost a small fortune. But here, despite all the hilarity and apparent argy bargy, the car was out and ready to go, and only very slightly scratched in a few minutes.

I think our client session only started half an hour late – and that was mostly waiting for the coffee to be made for the car saviours. Don’t get me started on the service there – they’re very slow… if a cup was stuck in that hole and it was down to them to get it out, it’d still be there now, let alone a whole car.

See, that’s India – looks disorganised – but somehow it all just sort of works.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this then do please tell all your friends.  Ah go on…

And then have a look at these (very) vaguely related posts:

May I speak with your servant

The pavements are so… flat

He stuck a screwdriver straight in the socket