Opening Letters

The Man in the Green Jumpsuit

sometimes Mr. Right is an old guy with a snowblower

Sarah Jayne Johnson |

The earth had once again shed its dandruff. All evening activities canceled, all highways shut down, and all streets littered with impatient people trying desperately to make it home just to be anywhere other than behind the wheel. I was one of these people. Sandwiched between two equally stressed people likely muttering the same colorful phrases under their breath as we snailed our way through the streets.

We began to shovel under my car, behind my tires, in front of my tires, everywhere but inside the car itself. We put the car in neutral, then reverse, then drive, then turbo, then reverse. Then we kicked the car. Nothing worked.

All Midwesterners can relate to the lingering feeling of eternal sadness that comes when cold beer tucked in monogrammed can koozies and live outdoor music seems like a lifetime away. We start to forget the feeling of sun-soaked shoulders, candy-green grass, and clothes stained with the scent of another impromptu bonfire. It seems impossible that the streets we roam through in cheap sandals are now buried under knee-high snow.

Just as I began to seriously consider teleporting straight to Tahiti, I paused. The car in front of me suddenly had an arm sticking out of the driver’s side window. What were they doing? Didn’t they know this was The Day After Tomorrow? Ride or die? I turned to my left, and saw another person with his window rolled down yelling to what I could only assume was the human attached to the arm. He smiled and waved back. They chatted politely within the real-life snow globe. Traffic began to inch and they said farewell. Through iced-over windows and spinning tires, there was still time to be neighborly. I smiled to myself, wondering what their pleasantries were about.

The snow continued through most of the night. Plows came and went, trudging through the sad tire tracks of those safely tucked inside warm houses. I slept terribly that night. Tossing and turning, feet still wet and cold from poor choices in footwear. I finally dozed off, hoping the morning would bring an easier drive for my exhausted Versa. It did not.

As I put on my boots to leave for work, my husband, Tyler, came inside from shoveling and said, “You can probably make it out of the driveway.” Wow, such confidence. Narrowing my eyes, I asked him what that meant. “I shoveled some but I don’t think I have to do more. Maybe I do. Just accelerate a lot.” Less confident now.

I got into my car ... confident, determined, terrified. I exhaled, and went for it.

“You got it, you got it, you got it.”

Nope. I didn’t. Well, for a while I did. Until I hit the unshoveled driveway dip. I stared at Tyler through the driver’s side window, and simply shook my head. Tail between his legs, he grabbed the shovel.

As much as I’d love to blame him, my own lead foot had done the deed. We began to shovel under my car, behind my tires, in front of my tires, everywhere but inside the car itself. We put the car in neutral, then reverse, then drive, then turbo, then reverse. Then we kicked the car. Nothing worked.

Then we saw him. A hooded, older gentleman dressed in a full-body, military green utility jumpsuit carrying a shovel. He was Casanova, he was James Bond, he was … probably judging me for trying to get out of the driveway in the first place.

“Need some help?” he asked. Tyler, a man whose masculinity never overcomes the reality of a situation, looked at him gratefully and said “Yes, we do.”

Together they tried to push my sweet, apologetic vehicle. It moved a little, and then not at all. I saw the two men motioning to each other and continue to try and dig the car out. Our jumpsuited neighbor reminded me of the men in my family. Warm, friendly, helpful to a fault. He knew who we were, though we’d never spoken to him: a young, married couple, ignorant to the gravity of the world around them. He didn’t seem to mind; like Tyler, he just seemed happy to help.

At one point, he returned to his garage to get some sand. He thought it might help with the traction. When he returned, told me to put it in reverse, and step on it. I nodded, and obliged. After a couple of minutes, the car finally gave, and I was pushed out into the street. A car now freed by kindness, determination, and a little bit of sand.

“Thank you!” I yelled out my window, smiling the most appreciative grin I could muster. The man smiled back and waved. His smile stayed with me throughout the day. Just a man a few houses down with time and sand to spare.

Sometimes, the weather is bad. Roads are terrible, the forecast is condemning, and everything other than my duvet cover seems ghastly, but the weather is only bad some of the time. The people are always good, even during a blizzard.