Over the course of an all-day drive my friend and I touched on several topics. One that came back around a few times was this, “What prompts God to intervene on our behalf?” The prayers of the righteous? The severity of our needs? The consequences of our decisions? When does He throw out the supernatural safety net? When does He decide to not make us sleep in the bed that we ourselves made? Does He intervene at all?
Maintaining the recommended towing speed, we had plenty of time to ponder these mysteries as every other vehicle on the road flew past us. We had picked up a little Uhaul trailer for my artist friend’s pottery bins because the station wagon was full, once we packed it with the booth elements for the art fair. The unusually jerky ride was even worse on the long hills when the little trailer acted like a stubborn dog on a leash, digging in then surrendering as we rocked our way up the hills. We arrived at no conclusions as to the mysteries of God’s ways, but that was no surprise. It has been years since either of us have required or expected conclusions.
The show went well, but the real work comes when a thousand artists tear down a thousand booths and try to drive a thousand vehicles into the streets still crowded with a thousand fair-goers. We divided to conquer. My friend tore down the booth, I went to get the car and trailer. After snaking my way into the square, I pulled the trailer into the first spot that was close to our booth, just barely clearing a path for others. I was immediately confronted by the fair police.
“You can’t park here!” they insisted.
“We’ll be packed and gone in five minutes,” I pleaded.
“You’re blocking. You have to pull out of the square and wait for another opening!” They were as firm as fair police get until, from behind us, came a booming voice,
“Why the hell can’t he just park on this side over here!?” came a voice seasoned by whiskey and cigarettes.
At every art fair there is “that-guy.” This was that-guy. The first day he almost got in a fist fight with our booth neighbor. The second day the police were called twice because he wouldn’t keep his sidewalk clear. He nearly hit a child racing back and forth on his electric scooter, and on and on. Now, “that-guy” was coming to my aid because it served his interests. If I could park over there, he figured he could come in right after me and make his load-out even easier.
“Fine,” the cop relented, “Back this up and pull in over there.” That-guy smiled and gave me a creepy wink.
“Problem is,” I confessed, “I don’t know how to back up a trailer, especially into that tight spot.”
I wasn’t kidding, it would take me hours, if ever. That-guy dropped his smile.
“Oh for Christ’s sake. Get out, I’ll do it myself,” he barked.
To which his wife immediately added, “What? You can’t back a trailer either.”
This was like waving red at a bull. He jumped in, whipped across to the other side of the street, backed up perfectly and stepped out with a satisfied smile.
“You’re still blocking,” the cop declared, noticing the crooked trailer.
“We’ll just unhook it and roll it in, out of the way,” we offered, quickly jumping into action. The cop walked away.
“Well hurry up, I can’t leave till you clowns do,” added that-guy, returning to his old sweet self.
Then he turned back and stared at our trailer hitch. “What the hell?” He walked over shaking his head. “Look at your hitch. How did you get here?” He reached down and easily released the hitch from the car’s receiver. He held it up to show his wife and shouted to anyone within ear-shot, “Hey, honey, look at this!” The ball of the hitch was hanging on by a thread. Literally, the installer had put the lock washer on the wrong side and the bolt was one tread from coming undone. “These clowns are lucky to be alive!” His wife shook her head as well. He took it apart, switched the lock washer and tightened it as best he could. Then they both helped us load up, moving quickly as an example for us to follow.
After leaving the hardware store with our new wrench it struck us at the exact same time. Someone had a good time back there listening to our theological discussion about whether or not God intervenes, while holding our hitch bolt on for 500 miles.