Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

October 18, 2003. In the beginning - finding my van

Iím on my way to buying a van. Today I went to Richmond to look at the first one, and I ended up putting down a deposit and making plans to get it to a VW mechanic who can inspect it. In no small measure due to accepting many kindnesses from strangers.

I hooked up with Mike through the internet. His name was on the air-cooled VW site, and I emailed him to ask about Vanagon mechanics in Richmond. First he sent me the name of a mechanic. We started to chat, and a few emails later he offered to go see the van with me. I accepted, wondering if this was a sensible thing to do. I mean, I could just imagine meeting him at the home of the van owner, the two of us obviously not knowing each other. Or what if he turned out to be some kind of a nut? But I suggested that we meet earlier and pick up some lunch, so he could advise me on what to look for in used vans and we could both feel like we knew each other at least a bit.

We did that. I was pretty nervous. I left Arlington late, and only arrived on time by barreling down Route 95 at a steady cruise-controlled 75 mph all the way. I was

relieved when I saw him. He didnít look like a nut. About my age, blonde beard, looked pretty cool and unpretentious. Being sensible and cautious, I thought we really should take two cars, but that seemed excessive once Iíd met him.

When we met Fayez, whoís selling the van, he looked at the two of us and immediately started speaking to Mike. Basic middle-eastern male attitude, I guess, though heís been in the US for something like 25 years. After a while I guess he figured out that we werenít a couple, that Iím the one buying the van, and that Mike was there for his technical expertise and help. I donít think he ever realized that Mike and I had only met an hour earlier!

We all had fun looking at everything in the van. I couldnít hide my ignorance as I explored every nook and cranny and Mike walked me through all the parts of the engine explaining what was what. It was an hour before we even went out to drive it. Fayez considerately stayed home, though he must have been as nervous as all get-out about that. I drove for a while, and then Mike drove, which was good because I trust his judgment about the van far more than my own. I mean, I thought it was fine, but what do I know? Mike thought it was fine too, though. So I decided to make an offer.

That took ages, we got sidetracked all over the place. Fayez told us his view of Zionism Ė that the movement was spearheaded not by Jews being persecuted in France but by goyische Swiss financiers who were using the movement as a cover through which to funnel money by buying land in the Middle East. O-kay. Not quite what I learned in grad school. But Fayez said that as a Palestinian, he knew better. I wasnít about to start an argument. Anyhow, I like Fayez and it was interesting to meet a Palestinian living in this quintessentially American community in the suburbs of Richmond.

Fayez offered to take my van Ė well, I hope it will be mine! - to the mechanic for inspection. Mike offered to meet him there and take him back home. If that comes out okay, Fayez is going to see about getting the refrigerator repaired. And if all that is okay, Iím going to buy it! I was worried about getting it checked by a mechanic Ė I couldnít go back to Richmond again to do it myself. But hereís Mike offering to take care of it, and he doesnít even know me! As we drove back to the lot where my car was parked I said that this was all so strange, and I must have thanked him a dozen times. I mean, as I said to him, we donít even hardly know each other! He said, well, itís the VW thing.

On the way back I asked Mike about whether heíd grown up in Richmond, and he told me some about his family, things that mattered. And then he suddenly stopped and said that he didnít know why he was telling me this, that usually he never told anyone about it at all. Well, I said, I kind of asked, and he agreed. It seemed to make sense. After all, I donít usually ask for much help from anyone, much less someone I hardly know, and here he is helping me buy a van. So to me it seemed like him kind of trusting me in return. Maybe relying on the kindness of strangers is part of the new life Iím creating.

Continue to the next entry.

Return home.