The block comes together again, this time around a crushed car. Ours.
Late in August an unusually strong storm blew through the Northwest -- the strongest in our recorded weather history, in fact. My son and I were in downtown Seattle, at the Penny Arcade Expo, when I got a call from a friend who had just stopped by our place.
"Your upstairs windows are flapping around like crazy," he said. We have casement windows that swing open easily, and I could imagine them banging violently against the house. "Close them up as best you can," I said, "I'll start heading home."
A few minutes later I got a call from my sister. "You know that big carport tent thing you have covering your travel trailer up here?" she asked. "Well, I just watched it fly 30 feet straight up into the air, flip over a few times, then come down in a blackberry bramble." "I'm downtown, but starting to head home," I said, "I'll work my way up there next."
Standing at a metro bus stop, headed home to respond to these wind driven inconveniences, I got another call, this one from a neighbor. "Hey, where are you?" he asked. "I'm on my way home," I said, "I'll deal with the windows as soon as I get there."
"Dude," he said, "forget the windows. Your car is smashed."
Then this picture showed up on my phone...
Our poor Subaru Forester -- the first new car we'd ever gotten, back in 2004. It had been the perfect car for us, and we'd taken good care of it. We expected to drive it for another 10 years. But weather and one of the two massive maple trees in front of our house had conspired against us.
The winds were still gusting over 50 miles per hour. "Keep clear of that tree," I told my neighbor, "I'm on my way home."
I wrote in a previous post about our annual Night Out block party, where I reflected on the benefits of building a community right in your neighborhood. By the time I got home that afternoon I couldn't have asked for a better illustration of that community in action. Orange traffic cones had emerged from somewhere to flag the area. A crowd of neighbors had gathered with work gloves, pruning shears and saws, loppers, and even a chainsaw.
We got started immediately, working our way into the tangled mess. As branches came off they went to a team that denuded the greenery, stowing it in compost containers from up and down the street. The wood was cut into armlength pieces and stacked in my front yard.
Not long after we started a police cruiser showed up (a neighbor had called 911 concerned about what might have been power lines under the felled limb, but what turned out to be phone lines). I stepped out of the fray to talk with the officers. They were assessing the activities as I approached. "Looks like you guys have this pretty well under control," said one of the officers. "Yeah, I think we should have the street cleared in another ten minutes or so," I said. The officer glanced around, then nodded his head succinctly. "Nice work. We're going to move along -- you wouldn't believe what a day this is turning out to be."
I think the whole thing was cleared in maybe 30 minutes, start to finish. The car windshield and frame were crushed, but the engine wasn't damaged. I was able to pull the vehicle out of the driveway and move it across the street, to avoid any subsequent tree+wind based disasters.
Tools were put away, and one of the neighbors made an offer of drinks, which many gladly accepted. Beers were opened, though I opted for a glass of scotch to toast the end of our trusty Subaru. While the group of neighbors chatted and relaxed, I dialed up my insurance company to start the claims process. When someone answered, and I explained what had happened to the vehicle, their first question was, "What's the address so we can send a crew over to clear the downed limb?"
"Oh, don't sweat it," I replied, "We had a little block party just now, and it's all cleared up."
Neighbors in action. It made an otherwise unfortunate event feel pretty bearable. I sipped on my scotch and felt grateful for the help and support of the people who, at least proximity-wise, were closest to me.