My bridge to peace - A Lift for Scotty
The little Volkswagen was my pride and joy. I drove everywhere and got to know the city. I got to know how to drive in the snow. But above all, I picked up Scotty at a crowded bus stop one morning and drove him in triumph to Carleton.
Scotty? I have been a big guy all my life. But Scotty made me look, well, slender. He was a Guyanese student with a glandular disorder and he was the biggest guy I had ever seen. His arms looked bigger than my legs. I don’t think I ever got around to asking his weight but suffice it to say that there was a question to be answered that morning when I stopped my little VW at the crowded bus stop as I saw Scotty and another West Indian student I knew. Truth was, I was not stopping for Scotty. I was stopping for the slender female student beside him. But when he saw me stop, Scotty smiled his appreciation and motioned to come. The question: could he get in the car? He obviously felt he could and gallantly offered to get into the back and allow the slender student to ride in front. Quickly, I stopped him. Volkswagens only had two doors. I just knew there was no way Scotty could negotiate this manoeuvre. So I motioned the female student to take the back seat. Then, pushing the passenger seat all the way back along its travel, I invited Scotty to come and sit in the front beside me.
What happened next was a small chapter in my early Canadian culture shock. I had been amazed at the cold indifference Canadians showed in public. I mean, in Jamaica I would know what to expect. At the drop of a hat a crowd would form. Speculation would run rife as to whether the man could get into the car, whether the door would shut, if the car could move, what kind of food the man had been eating, what size his wife was, that kind of thing. Bets would be offered and noisily taken. People from shops nearby would run to see what was happening and to participate in the speculation. The bus driver would not move until he and his passengers had witnessed the result of this effort. But Canada? My experience had told me otherwise. This was not the Canadian way. Things of this nature did not appeal to Canadians. Like the British side of their forebears, they kept a stiff upper lip. But our manoeuvre this morning pumped some Jamaican spirit into them. Not a lot, mark you. But some. The passengers waiting at the bus stop strained their necks to see this modern miracle. They no longer looked up Bank Street to see if the bus was coming; they looked at us. They gave us all their attention. They wanted to see if Scotty could get into the VW.
Making himself as nimble as possible, Scotty lumbered into the front seat. The car sighed as it sank under his weight. He tried to shut the door. But it would not close, hitting his shoulder instead of the door jamb. It was not until I recalled something I did on the way home from a party in Kingston at 3:30 one morning with 14 of us crammed into an Austin A-55, that we solved the problem. Leaving my right arm free to steer and change gears, I hoisted my left shoulder outside through my driver’s side window. This gave Scotty enough room and so, finally, the passenger door closed. But he too, had to keep his hefty right arm and shoulder outside. So far, so good. Now. The big question. Would the car move? With some trepidation, I let up the clutch, a little more slowly than usual, and coaxed the car into motion. The car rolled. I swear I could hear applause from the crowd at the bus stop. But my own triumphant grin drowned it out. I had done it. I had given Scotty a lift.
Ewart Walters, From his book: “To Follow Right – A Journalist’s Journey”