Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mr. Dodge's Neighborhood

Our house in Poplarville, Mississippi came with was a freestanding basketball hoop - the heavy, tall kind on its own base that takes up valuable turning space in your driveway.

Like this.  But heavier.
The movers hadn’t even arrived yet with our furniture, and I already knew I would not have time to learn a new sport.  I didn’t have the truck with me to take it to the dump (not that I knew where the dump was), nor did I have sufficient tools to dismantle the beast.  It was about ten feet tall, with a solid base that who knows what was living under.  The grass had grown around it and the net was rotted off.  It had to go.

Newly transplanted from the friendly and familiar in Schroon Lake, I felt like a stranger in a strange land in Mississippi.  I was here by myself, and Larry wouldn't be here for another month.  But a great way to meet new neighbors is by joining local Facebook yard sale-type pages.  I joined Poplarville and Bogalusa (Louisiana) with the sole intent of getting rid of some stuff.  It has the added benefit of getting you up close with the locals.

Within minutes of posting a picture of the hoop and asking $20 for the privilege of taking it away, I had a buyer.  Bridgett was from a few towns over and when her husband got home from work they would be down to pick it up.

I heard them before I saw them.  A rough looking Dodge Ram slowly pulled into the driveway.  A sticker on the rear bumper read: 

(If you don’t know what this means, I can’t embarrass myself by explaining it here.  Go Google it.)

Bridgett was a chatty sweetheart in a sundress who was thrilled to death with getting this hoop for their son.   Her Army Reserves husband seemed just the opposite – quiet, clean cut and ramrod straight, all business and little pleasure.  I found them an odd pairing. 

Bridgett impressed me with her ability to simultaneously tell me her family history and help her husband finagle the hoop onto the bed of the truck, which was littered with tools.  The base was too heavy to lift, so they decided to just tip the whole thing, slide it on the bed let the hoop hang off the truck gate.  (I have since noticed that lots of people here drive with things dangling off the back of their vehicles, so it was not unusual.)

This meant getting the back of the truck closer to the hoop base.  Army Reserves looked at me and said, “Can you drive a standard?”  I just stared at him.  Bridgett stopped talking.  I looked at her.  “I can’t drive a stick,” she said sheepishly, then dove into the history of her lack of vehicle prowess. 

I swallowed.  “Ye—ah, I guess so,” I said, and slowly got into the driver’s seat.  This was a
Like this.  But worse.
late 80’s Dodge that had been used and abused.  It was utilitarian, nothing more.  The gear shift looked like it belonged in an 18 wheeler.  I couldn’t tell if reverse was up and to the left, or down and to the right.  I just knew I was going to humiliate myself.  My hesitation gave me away.

“Up to the left,” Army Reserves yelled.

I started the truck up, got it into gear without grinding anything, and slowly backed up until he told me to stop.  With great relief I killed the engine and got out.  Army Reserves and Bridgett were smiling at me.

“It just screams redneck, doesn’t it?” he laughed, the first time I saw him smile, and a lovely smile it was.

And just like that, I felt the ice break around me. I had made some kind of connection with residents of my new home state.  They weren’t scary, they weren’t judgmental, they were just people and they weren’t out to get me.  I laughed with them and said “Bridgett, every woman should know how to drive a stick.”  She then launched into another story about something involving her father building a swing set.

At least I now had room in the driveway for the movers.

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