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Meet the Neighbours

This entry is WAY out of chronological order, but I did want to get it in here as it’s a fun story about attitude, confidence and home turf.

One morning in March, shortly after I began my fulltime journey, my daughter dropped over to the house. “Did you know you’ve got a flat tire?” she asked.

“No I didn’t,” I replied. “I’ll look at it in a bit.”

I went to inspect the tire in question and it was indeed wounded. Not mortally, but definitely crippled. It was, in a word, flat. There was no question of even pulling out of the driveway on it, much less driving anywhere to get it fixed. I did, however, like any self-respecting car owner, and self-preserving female, have a mini-doughnut spare, so all was not lost. Out came the jack and wheel wrench and all the rather less than manly tire-changing tools I possessed – which wasn’t much.

I was appropriately attired in jeans and a top and looked my usual everyday convincing self, so no issues there. I jacked the car up and popped the wheel off.

Umm, no.

I hammered on it, I kicked it, I beat on it with the wheel wrench. I pushed, I pulled, I cursed (under my breath) – I did everything except pop that wheel off. Cursing would have been most unladylike and would definitely have aroused comment from the neighbour who was watching clandestinely from a curtained window across the street.

The wheel remained securely unpopped. I’ve never had much upper-body strength at the best of times, and the meds I was on sapped it still further so I eventually resigned myself to my fate. I finally admitted to myself that when it comes to cars I am not alpha female. I gave the problem to the Universe and asked one simple question.


What Would Stephanie Do?

The answer was instant and obvious – why, ask for help, of course!

The Universe has this annoying way of prioritising some things (like the stuck tire) and ignoring the rest (like coming out to the neighbours). Oh well.

Now our neighbour across the street is a VERY big guy. He’s a man’s man. He has a machine shop in his garage, an arc welder in the driveway, several trailer frames to arc weld (also in the driveway), several hydraulic jacks (yes, in the driveway), a black sleeveless T-shirt and a brushcut. He’s the sort you’d definitely want to stay on the good side of in a bar on a Saturday night. He also had the dubious advantage of being home.

Oh well, here we go, I thought, and walked over to his house.

Several neighbours were now watching from blatantly open windows.

Explaining my predicament, I asked if he had a jack and a sledgehammer.

“Sure!” he said. “I’ll get them right now!” Looking at him, I wasn’t sure why he’d need the jack; I figured he could easily lift the car unassisted.

As we walked back to our house, with his 3-ton hydraulic jack and half-ton sledgehammer, I said, “I don’t think you know who I am, do you?”

“Umm, no…”

“I live here.”

“You live here?”

“Always have,” and I gave him my old and new names.

The look on his face was quite amazing, as he finally made the connection. He looked me up and down, stared at me and just shook his head in disbelief.

Most of the neighbours were now all in their front doorways.

He jacked up the car with his big manly hydraulic jack, whacked on the wheel with his big manly sledgehammer and of course the wheel came right off. I went to mount the mini-doughnut spare but he would have none of it and insisted on doing it for me.

The interesting thing was the conversation we had during all of this. He was full of questions – good ones, not the foolish late-night-TV stuff. He wanted to know about the meds and the hair removal and all that, of course, but he was more interested in why anyone would choose to transition. It took a while for him to grasp the depth of the necessity to transition – how it is not a choice but a necessity for self-unification.

What really helped his comfort level was no doubt the setting. It was easier for him to talk while doing familiar, manly things like changing a tire than it would have been if, say, we’d invited him over for coffee. There was an important lesson for me.

All the neighbours were now at the bottom of their steps, straining to hear us. A quick smile and a wave and they all scurried indoors.

We chatted for a while longer, then he had to get back to his welding and I had to get to a tire store.

The happy ending? He and I are great friends now, and the ice is broken with the rest of the neighbours!

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