And the Moral of the Story…

Once upon stormy but not dark afternoon, I was driving back from managing a horse show, happily anticipating a hot shower and the cool, clean sheets of home, when traffic slowed, then came to a halt.

A big tree had blown down and lay mostly across the road. This being a country road, several country boys climbed out of their trucks, and began to Consider the Situation.

I climbed out of my truck too, and stood where I could hear these fellas.

“If I had my chainsaw, I have that sucker off the road in no time.”

“My brother-in-law has a winch on his duel-ly, but he’s up in Jersey this week. That thing would haul this tree clean into Frederick County.”

“We got a four-wheel-drive tractor at home, and it will move some tree. I guar-an-damned-tee you it will.”

Meanwhile, a few of the less prepossessing vehicles disgorged female drivers. The season being high summer, the fallen tree was fully leafed out. A gal who drove a Prius began to snap off the smaller branches from the topmost part of the tree, which lay a-thwart the shoulder.

Back at the trucks, Blue Ford F150 allowed as how his missus would bring him his chain saw, but she was still at work. The other gents, inspired by this swift thinking, got out their cell phones. Alas, we were in rural Maryland and in the shadow of a mountain. No signal to be had.

By now, several ladies were ripping away at the hapless tree, carrying stray limbs from the travel lanes, busting off other limbs as best they could with their bare hands and shod feet.

Dodge Ram said he had a buddy who lived not two miles off. The buddy enjoyed the distinction of having a brother who belonged to the local volunteer fire department, and surely, surely, that fine organization would know what to do about a fallen tree.

Ms. Prius and her cohorts had relieved the tree of much foliage and many smaller branches by this point. Their efforts revealed that by crowding onto the shoulder, a car might be able to scoot around, provided its tires could negotiate a couple of not-so-large branches, and its paint job could endure a close encounter with wet leaves and twigs.

The ladies got back behind the wheels of their vehicles (as did I), and the little Prius managed to get past the tree.

As the Prius drove off, the guys stopped talking. Another pee-pee car came tiptoeing around the tree. When I nudged my Tundra past that tree, the guys were heading back toward their respective trucks.

Does this situation point to a difference between male and female problem-solving? To the differences between people who drive trucks and the people who drive pee-pee cars?

I like to think it might. The guys were focused on solving the public problem of a tree in the road, the ladies focused on the personal problem of being late for soccer practice (or whatever).

Or maybe the Prius lady was particularly determined, and no generalities need apply. What I was aware of, was that doing something to get me moving toward home, was more satisfying than jawboning about woulda-coulda’s.

This little twenty minutes out of a summer evening has stuck with me, though I’m not sure what I’m supposed to learn from it. What do you make of it, and have you ever found yourself with a similarly tenacious, but not quite comprehensible memory?

To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy “Lady Eve’s Indiscretion.”

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31 comments on “And the Moral of the Story…

  1. First I have to say I love the Prius lady! Sometimes you can’t wait for others to solve the problem–you have to start solving it yourself. I think taking action when you have a problem always makes you feel like you are moving forward and not standing still. It works for concrete problems like a tree in the road and emotional problems like depression.
    Your story also reminded me of the countless meetings at work spent talking, talking and more talking about teaching. I much prefer the time actually teaching. Again for me: Actions speak louder than words.
    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts in your blog and for making me think.

  2. As I continue to ponder that little vignette, Kathy, it occurs to me that both solutions were necessary–we had to get home, but that tree also had to be moved. If that road was to be safely traveled, the chain saws, winches and so forth were necessary.
    I’m not much of one for meetings, particularly poorly run meetings. Like you, I’d rather be in my own classroom, laboratory, workshop, whatever, moving FORWARD.

  3. As the secrectary of a college sorority I know all about the “All-Talk-No-Action” situation. As much as I love my sorority sisters, sometimes I wish I could just bring a giant megaphone to meetings and yell, “Can we just stop talking? We are getting NOWHERE!” To demonstrate how serious I am about this I have googled where to buy a megaphone and Walmart actually sells them. Anyway…
    Despite all the frustration I’ve met due to so little “doing”, I think it would be very impractical to count out all those out there whose strength is planning before doing. Like you said Grace, both solutions were necessary. While most people are concerned with the short term solution that will take the problem out-of-sight-out-of-mind, others are worried about how the decision will affect others and themselves down the line. So if I had been in your situation on that summer evening, I would look back on it and say,”Thank God we do not all think the same way.” I shudder to think of what this world would be like if we did.

  4. Excellent point! Vive la diversity–again. I have to say, though, that my sister served as treasurer for the Panhellenic Counsel when she was in college. I can still hear her muttering about Panhel this, and Panhel that. My dad pointed out that part of what college is supposed to do is prepare you for real life, and in real life, there are stupid, boring meetings by the bushel basket.
    (Thanks Dad.)

    • Thanks for that! I really appreciate that little nugget of wisdom becuase it is so easy for me to get caught up in the little things and forget about the big picture. One of these days I will be out of college and it will be the “real deal”. I’m sure I will be thankful for these kinds meetings one day.

  5. It sounds like the guys were using the tree as an opportunity to socialize, brag a bit, and bond a bit on a summer’s evening. Am entertained they didn’t even notice what the women were up to until it was fait accompli and appreciate the role reversal.
    I used to be the Prius lady, except in a truck, and would’ve started pulling straps, tools etc out of my bed tool box, tossing them at the men to hop-to. No surprise I ran a non-profit, riding herd on committees full of your tree guys, an endless loop of balancing committee meeting discussion with getting-things-done not simply discussed to shreds.

  6. I am very much aware that there are “typical male” and “typical female” actions and behaviour, as by nature we ARE just different, even if it sounds primeval but it naturally is just so and often shows in our behaviour.
    I don’t think though that the fallen tree problem is one of gender. Maybe all the males just wanted to show off what they could do and who bloody great they know. But we people are all different and are driven by different reasons and go about things differently.
    The problem was not really solved by taking off branches and drive over the rest. It was only solved for one self. But it was still there and something needed to be done by someone – and obviously not the ones who left; (and even if only calling the road authorities…).
    (Now, without directly comparing this or condemning the Prius lady or anyone who left, as not 100 people needed to stay there and do something) This is one direction our society takes that I don’t like: there are too many who too much think of just themselves and not the public good. In fact, doing so usually makes it worse for all the others (like overtaking in a traffic jam just helps the overtaking ones, all the ones behind will have to wait even longer). And thanks that there are always those who do think not only of their own good. Surely there are situations where you do (have to) think of yourself, but sometimes people should just be able to stand back.
    My “tenacious situations” nowadays are problems in our kindergarten (I am in the parents’ board, if it’s called like that?). All the women (and most of us are) are just emotional and too much focused on their wishes and for their children, and discussions are hot but long and unsatisfactory. I am happy that this year some men joined us, and their troubleshooting is efficient, more unemotional and sticks to the problem. And it never is easy to do it right for generality and still have the exceptions considered and taken care of.

    • Connie, you are absolutely right, the tree needed to be moved, and before darkness fell. The road was a back road, twisty enough that it shouldn’t be traveled quickly, but with light enough traffic that I’m sure people got to leadfooting when they shouldn’t.

      My brother headed up a school board for a while, and said carpentry was a good background to have for that job. You have to build things right, by executing certain steps in a certain order… Glad your school board has some balance, because it has an important job.

  7. I would have laughed myself silly watching the prius lady. I would have cheered.
    That story is a reminder that sometimes we have to get rid of the “fringes” of a problem and see what is underneath. Then that will lead us to a solution that was not visable at first glance.

    • A visual thinker! Oh, yes. There’s that lesson in it too–about how problems can camouflage their true natures. And sometimes you have to tiptoe around an obstacle, and sometimes the power tools aren’t necessary, and sometimes…

  8. go prius lady! sometimes all that discussion is really _just_ socializing (and maybe some one-upmanship?) Hopefully all eventually got resolved!

    • Sandy, it makes sense that men would socialize around a logistical challenge, too, but it struck me as odd that the women were the ones taking on the physical work? Why didn’t the guys join us?

  9. I read all the comments and they are all valid. However, men being men, they may have stood there what-ifing until the sun went down but, the women got the job done, as usual. That is the point of the story! We don’t know that the Prius lady didn’t notify authorities once she got where she was going, do we? If she was that self-controlled, she may have. I can easily see myself acting in the same manner as she did but I would certainly notify authorities once I was free of the roadblock.

    • Trudy, I never even had that thought as I was driving away, that somebody should call the state police. Shame upon me. I suspect by the time the authorities mustered out, the local would have reduced that tree to next year’s free firewood.

  10. Loved this post AND the comments. I think Larisa was right about the jawing and posturing, and I’ll bet Lady Prius pulled out her cell and called 911 prior to getting out to pull limbs. Here, the country boys in their big trucks would have been loaded for bear with chains, ropes, etc. and probably would have been fighting over who would get the honors.

    • No cell service at that location, which isn’t that unusual in western Maryland. I didn’t have cell service until they put up a controversial “extra” tower in the middle of somebody sheep meadow down the valley. (And the sheep don’t seem to mind a bit.)

  11. I liked what Chelsea had to say “thank heaven we do not all think alike”. My instant connection was to the “Can you see the forest for the trees” folk wisdom. If they guys had prevailed thinking about the tree removal there would have been a hundred car back-up.

    The Prius lady (in my mind) looked at the tree with an eye to find the invisible option and she found it. I might add that in this day of cell phones a quick call to the state police or whoever watches over the area would bring a crew with the proper tools to remove the tree … which they would only proceed to do (I would hope) once they had gotten all of the citizens out of the way.

    The only similar situation that I could dredge from my memory was a long ago adventure when I was in high school/college … something like that. I was driving home on the freeway when I came upon a traffic jam. It was the kind where one congratulates themselves that they are the correct number of car lengths back – so no worries about the sudden stop causing a rear-ender. In any case, my car stalled in the maneuver and WOULD NOT start up again. As the traffic started to pick up speed around me I remember being truly afraid. All of a sudden a bunch of fellow travelers appeared around my car and pushed me off on to the shoulder. I then had to decided (more fear) to accept their offer of a ride or not. I finally did as the alternative was being stranded (pre-cell phone existence). They gave me a ride to very close to home and I walked in around midnight. I remember feeling so grateful that the good people really were good people. What was I supposed to learn? Cautious optimism? In any case, the next day my dad drove me out to where the car was, we were met by a AAA truck and when I gave it ‘one more try’ it started right up. I hate when that happens!!

    • The Imp of the Engine. Probably a funky starter, if it will start cold but not hot–fat lot of good it does to know that now.

      Once upon a time, I broke up with what I thought was the love of my life, and went into a tailspin. One night I went for a walk and ended up crying my little heart out in the pouring down stinkin’ cold rain. Strangers came upon me, and at that point I wasn’t entirely sure how to get home. They put me in their car and dropped me off curbside. Strangers, or angels? When I think what might have happened…

  12. Loved my budd off when I read that blog. LOL, I know I am lazy and I like to talk but when it comes to things that have to be done in order to get to a certain point, I am with the prius lady all the way. Nothing wrong with getting the job done by manual labour if one hasn’t the tools handy. I am pretty sure the ladies could have moved the tree by lifting it if they hadn’t thought it unneccessary.
    It is a bit like my hubby, when I tell him to do the lawn mowing it is not gonna happen, he needs this or that for it (probably a certain star constellation) to do it, but when I pull the electric lawn mower and the extension cord out he is sometimes quick to take over and take the credit.

  13. First, happy release day on your new book. Your post reminds me of thousand-mile return trip from a family reunion last year. Two cars loaded with my sisters and husbands, one has a flat in the middle farm country PA. Seven people stood around, trying to see if they could get AAA on a cell phone with no signal. It took me all of two minutes to start unloading the trunk and extracting the “donut” to relive the gas station summers of my working youth. I swear, none of them had ever changed a tire. Getting things done on the fly seems to be a lost art in general, that is, unless you live in the country. Hope you sell a million copies and thanks.

    • DT, I made sure my daughter saw me change every flat we had, and that she knew how to change oil as well–though heading into Jiffy Lube is by far my preference. I learned these things not from my family, but from time spent on a farm, where it’s do it yourself or lose the crop, for most things.

  14. Your new book is rumbling my way. Looking forward to it! Your tree story made me think about all kinds of group dynamics. Visually I kept seeing delicate female hands with branch-created scrapes all over them (ouch) and then crusty men hands slackly resting in pockets (frown). I suppose chivalry is disappearing. Who teaches guys chivalry, anyway, the mom or the dad? Do women get a kick out of being chivalrous as well?

    • Leigh, I don’t think of it as chivalry, in the male sense, I think of it as honor–kindness and honesty–which we can all lay claim to. It was big old honkin’ tree, too. It did not occur to me to try to strip branches and sneak around, and last time I checked, I can haz be female.

      If it’s any consolation, in Regency England, there was many a public lament that chivalry in these modern times was dead.

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    They understood the unique act of making two Fathers Day cards, or having different names for each of your dads.

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