Mending the Tyre

Mending the Tyre

by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM                               Ireland                           12.03.2024

blue volkswagen cropped resized 210322Language can be funny. At the same time as it can be used to explain things, often our interpretations trip us up. Many years ago, I was traveling in the USA with one of our Irish Sisters. I was doing the driving, and she was looking at the scenery as we sped along the highways. “Well,” she said, “These Americans certainly do look after their bodies. Look at the number of places that sell cosmetics!”. I looked sideways to see what had attracted her attention. It was a commercial unit with the placard “Body Shop”. I had to explain to her that in America, a Body Shop was an auto repair garage.

This story from Nigeria is about yet another kind of auto repair outfit. I hesitate to call it a garage. Sr. Ann was travelling from Abakaliki to Ogoja. In those days it was a three-hour journey on very bad roads. She set out with Sr. Cecily who was going on temporary relief and who decided to do the driving there so that Sr. Ann could do the drive back the next day somewhat rested. Sr. Ann was nervous about the journey as she didn’t like driving much. She told Sr. Cecily this, and her hesitation about returning alone on such a bad road. It was quite a deserted stretch of road, and what if anything happened? “Don’t worry, dear”, said Cecily in the best style of Mother Mary Martin, “All will go well.”

It began badly the next morning when she went out to the car – a flat tyre. “No big problem”, she was told. Lucky Boy would fix it. The spare wheel was put on the car and Ann and Cecily set off to Lucky Boy’s auto repairs. Lucky Boy was found squatting at the side of the road, under the shade of a tree. His workshop consisted of a tractor tyre cut in half. One half held water, and the other half some elementary bits of tools and a bottle of lemonade. The tyre tube was examined. “No good, Sister, you need to buy a new tyre.” How much will it cost? After enquiries Sr. Ann realised it was going to cost four times the usual price. No, that would not do. Was there not any other solution?

Out from the back of his hair, Lucky Boy produces a sewing needle. In his “toolbox” was some black thread. He proceeded to mend the hole, like darning the heel of a sock, back and forward with herring bone stitches. Once the hole was held together, he placed a piece of rubber from an old tyre on top of the whole and put the whole thing into a small machine called a vulcanizer. This process makes the rubber hard. Like a miracle, when the tube was inflated the hole had been repaired.

Now all was set for the journey home to Abakaliki, with the repaired wheel back on the car and the spare back in its place. But Lucky Boy had one more piece of advice. “Sister, take this lemonade. You are nearly fainting! You need it for the journey!”