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For Maxine Rose Schur, recent events have made vivid a long-ago memory of a Mexican mechanic who gave what little he had to give.

When I was 22 and just married, my husband and I were driving an old Opel Rekord, through Mexico.

Suddenly the car stopped.

A bit of plastic linkage, called a bushing, was broken, and thus the transmission. We had a spare bushing, but it was too small and wouldn’t fit on. We needed a mechanic yet the cold evening was approaching, and we were in a desert with no help for miles.

We put the Opel in first gear, and in the flame-streaked sunset drove very slowly until we came to a group of thatched huts and a hand-painted sign: Mecánico.


A miracle.

The mechanic’s shop was a tiny shed. The young mechanic told us he could fix the transmission but only in the morning, when there would be electricity. He offered us this shed for the night which held a wooden platform. The shed was cold and dark but we put our sleeping bags down on the platform and tried to sleep. Later he entered, placed a piece of cardboard on the dirt floor, then lay on it without even a blanket. I realized this was his home and he gave us the better place to sleep.

In the morning the mechanic asked us to heat a pot of water on our camp stove and when it boiled, he dropped the bushing in. The heat made the bushing stretch so it fit.

Then the car mechanic, who owned no car asked us for a favor—to take him about twelve miles to where he lived with his pregnant wife when he could get a ride there. This house was made of cardboard—American refrigerator cartons with the words THIS SIDE UP upside down.

His wife gave us breakfast of tortillas and frijoles she cooked on an open fire. We paid the mechanic and gave his wife cans of tuna as a gift. To our surprise, she opened them all up to serve back to us on tortillas. She insisted we eat more because as she explained, a married woman must be a stout woman.

When we drove away, the young mechanic and his wife stood in front of their cardboard house, waving to us for a long time.

It has been five decades yet this memory of kindness freshly stabs my heart when I learn how, at the border, Mexicans are sleeping on a cold concrete floor.

With a Perspective, I’m Maxine Rose Schur.

Maxine Rose Schur lives in San Rafael and is a travel essayist, children’s book author and writing instructor.

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