I’ve been getting my car ready for winter this week – an oil and filter change and lubrication on Wednesday and this morning, swapping out my all season tires for winter tires. Last year, when I got the new tires for my new car, the dealer asked if I wanted stainless steel wheel covers – ‘to make it look good’, he said. I replied, ‘no thanks. I like the tough, muscular look of the black steel unadorned rims and big shiny locking wheel nuts’. He looked at me as if I was mad. I guess folks go in for the tire bling. I figured, I’m already spending a thousand dollars for the important stuff – what goes on the road and prevents me from skidding off – so why should I spend another couple hundred on fancy?
There’s a purpose to all of that introduction. As I was sitting in Mark’s Auto waiting for his good-looking son to install the snow tires, I thought back to warmer times. Last November this time we visited three hot-spots – Dubai, Thailand and Siem Reap in Cambodia. The scent of tire compound and automotive fluids wafted through the waiting room but my mind was on a delightful incident that happened one evening while we were waiting for the promised sundown view at the magnificent Temple of Angkor Wat at Angkor Thom.
We’d been walking all day from one temple to the next and we were just about knackered from the intense +40 C heat and having to hike up and down and across acres of broken stones paths. I wasn’t doing my usual wandering due to the warnings from our guide about the presence of land mines in the untended vegetation. He was lugging around an insulated bag of ice water – we must have stopped a dozen times in slivers of shade to catch our breath and top up our fluid levels.
I’d decided I wasn’t up to climbing another hundred steps to the viewing platform. Hub joined me in a wooden roofed structure that had been built into the curve of one of the hills overlooking a treed valley.
It was relatively cool out of the relentless sun and there was a breeze. A group of Japanese tourists had also stopped for a rest before they made the climb. As the sun began to set the jungle bugs came out. We were a buffet of fresh meat, already basted with sweat. Of course, I was prepared.
I fumbled in my backpack and pulled out a bottle of OFF insect repellant. I applied it to Hub’s exposed flesh and he did the same for me. I turned to the ladies sitting beside me on the step and help out the bottle. They looked puzzled. I went, ‘bzzz, bzzz’ and slapped at my arm, then mimed applying the repellant and made a happy face. The miming worked – they broke out into huge smiles and took turns slathering themselves up. It was time to go.
We began gathering our stuff togehter for the long walk downhill. The lady closest to me held up a hand – wait.
She went into her handbag and pulled out some coloured squares of thin paper. As I stared, open-mouthed, she deftly folded, turned, creased and unfolded a beautiful crane with outspread wings. She handed it to me with a small bow. I bowed as well. We clasped hands and smiled. No words were needed.
Just a couple of strangers interacting for a brief moment in a strange place. I have the paper crane and the memories. To me, that’s priceless.